Significant issues impacting the department

By focusing on Government priorities, we redefined ourselves and shifted our focus.

Significant issues and trends

The department worked hard during the year to continue delivering services while adapting to the challenges of uniting as one department. The department, had to harmonise two different systems, reporting mechanisms, information technology infrastructures and operating structures and operate across several physical locations in Perth and the regions. This has been done while also responding to current and emerging issues for Western Australians. Some specific challenges which impacted the department’s operations during 2017–18, have been described in the word cloud below.

significant issues word cloud

Figure 8: Significant issues facing the department

By focusing on Government priorities, we redefined ourselves and shifted our focus towards streamlining regulation and regulatory processes, improving customer-centric service delivery and maximising opportunities for digital delivery, and thinking innovatively to develop new ideas to address the regulatory challenges on a policy agenda. We have reviewed our structure and realigned our functions to best achieve the Machinery of Government goals.

The information in this section details activities that were impacted by significant issues and trends, and have been linked to demonstrate the role the department plays as regulator, service provider and policy maker.


In establishing its regulatory stewardship role, the department prioritised work on modernising and consolidating primary workplace health and safety legislation for the resources sector and general industry. The Government approved the development of a new Work Health and Safety Bill. This Bill will be supported by regulations aimed at aligning and improving consistency between specific categories of industry at a state and national level.

Tracking and monitoring worker safety remains an important part of our regulatory function. According to the most recent preliminary data on work-related lost time injuries and diseases (LTI/Ds), the five year trend (2012-13 to 2016-17) for frequency rate, measured per one million hours worked, shows a 3.7 per cent reduction. In addition, the five year trend (2012-13 to 2016-17) for incidence rate, measured per hundred employees, shows a 4.1 per cent reduction.

The most recent data shows the average work-related traumatic injury fatality incidence rate for the five year period is 9.8 work-related traumatic injury fatalities per one million workers. This is a 7.4 per cent reduction from a fatality incidence rate of 13.5 for the five year period of 2012–13 to 2016–17. Trend data has been provided below.

significant issues figure 9 graph

Figure 9: Work-related traumatic injury fatalities between 2013-14 and 2017-18

Work towards the government’s priority of reducing the number of workplace fatalities has progressed in the electrical industry with amendments made to strengthen and clarify relevant sections of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 and the Electrical (Licensing) Regulations 1991. The updates prohibit electrical work on or near live electrical installations and equipment, except in rare circumstances. They also stipulate that the electricity main switch must be turned off and locked out before any workers enter the ceiling space of a domestic property.

In an effort to ensure that regulated entities know and play by the rules, new penalties for businesses that commit safety offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1984 and the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 were developed during the year. These penalties will provide consistency with model Work Health and Safety laws and accommodate increases due to inflation.

In the wake of the June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in the United Kingdom, the department announced on 4 July 2017 that it would broaden the scope of an initial audit it had been carrying out on aluminium composite panels into a State-wide cladding audit. This audit includes all high- risk, high-rise buildings with cladding, in addition to supporting several other State government departments as they check the cladding materials on applicable public buildings. The audit team is keeping building owners updated on the project’s findings and any rectification work that may be required.

During 2017–18, the department’s product safety programs focused its activities on addressing the hazards associated with toppling furniture, as part of a two year national campaign to highlight the associated dangers. It also focused on button batteries, as part of a national strategy that aims to prevent children swallowing button batteries from toys and other household products. In November 2017, the Ombudsman released a report titled Investigation into ways to prevent or reduce deaths of children by drowning. In response, the department commenced work on addressing the hazards associated with portable swimming pools and baby bath aids. It is intended that in 2018-19, Western Australia, and more specifically the department, will lead and fund a national Portable Pools Interim Education Campaign for Summer.

Service provider

 Number of PoW applications received by the department over the last three financial years Driven by the government priorities of improving customer-centric service delivery and maximising opportunities for digital delivery, the department is working towards advancing its online presence for the convenience of stakeholders. The success and take-up of online applications eNotice and Programmes of Work Spatial Lodgement System by stakeholders, has resulted in savings in both time and money, and has received positive feedback from industry.

A Programme of Work (PoW) is lodged in the prescribed manner and approved by the Minister (or a prescribed official) prior to an explorer or prospector conducting any ground disturbing activities with mechanised equipment. During 2017–18, the strength of the State’s industry was capitalising on investment in major iron ore, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and gold projects.Record sales volumes of all three commodities are expected to be the major contributors to the industry’s strong performance in 2017–18. Iron ore sales are expected to break the 800 million tonne mark for the first time, LNG sales will reach over 30,000 tonnes and gold sales are expected to rise slightly to more than seven million ounces.

In addition, Western Australia’s industry has also been in the media as a potential contributor to the global battery minerals supply chain. The number of lithium mines operating in Western Australia has increased from just one in 2016, to seven at the 30 June 2018. The government’s Lithium and Energy Materials Taskforce, is now looking to promote Western Australia’s further investment potential. Additional information on the state of the resources sector is available in the Resource statistics section on the department’s website. Indicative of these trends, the department received an increase in PoW applications this year as detailed above. Further detail on the PoW Spatial Lodgement System can be found in the case study.

The department continued to work throughout 2017–18 on bringing together all its occupational licensing functions into a single Licensing Services Directorate. A significant point of focus during the year was on developing and implementing common policies and processes, wherever possible, across licence types so as to obtain greater efficiencies. Work was also undertaken to put in place service level agreements with each of the independent licensing authorities for which the Licensing Services Directorate provides licensing services. Of note during the year was a 9 per cent increase in the number of applications for High Risk Work Licences received compared with 2016–17.

During the year, the department was also involved in work towards ensuring consumers with disability were satisfied with their treatment, as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Western Australia Transition. The department participated in a national project that aimed to achieve a nationally coordinated response to issues impacting consumers with disability, who are managing and receiving goods and services under the NDIS.

Policy maker

During most of 2017–18, the theme in global commodity markets was generally one of improvement. About half of the world’s countries experienced an increase in growth, creating a period of synchronised global upturn. Western Australian producers benefited from the recovery in prices seen throughout 2017 and into the start of 2018. However, the year was not without its downside, with growing tensions between the United States and China and talk of a trade war creating investor uncertainly in the second half of 2017–18.

In 2017–18, the value of Western Australia’s mineral and petroleum industry is expected to be around $114 billion. This means that the industry’s value will have been in excess of $100 billion in seven of the past 10 years. To better reflect the developments in the petroleum and geothermal industries, the department has commenced work towards modernising and streamlining the State’s petroleum and geothermal legislation. The primary focus of the project is to amalgamate the three main Petroleum Acts into a single Petroleum Act to cover all petroleum and geothermal operations conducted in Western Australia.

With the national focus on energy security, the department began investigating strategies that would secure gas supply for our State. It began work to improve efficiencies and identify opportunities to reduce regulatory burden, whilst meeting community expectations for rigorous and transparent regulation. Further detail on this work can be found in the key achievements section.

In managing our policy environment to drive behaviours that are in the public interest, the State government and the department more specifically, prioritised work towards supporting Western Australian victims of family and domestic violence (FDV). Introduced into Parliament in May 2018, the Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2018 seeks to amend the existing legislation to support victims of FDV. Communication strategies are being developed for a number of target audiences including tenants (with a particular focus on Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse), owners or managers of rental properties, housing providers, FDV and tenant services workers, and the legal sector. In addition, the department also made strides to incorporate FDV paid leave into public sector industrial agreements as they were renegotiated. Key changes and further information for both of these initiatives has been described in the case study.

During the year, $403,000 of community legal centre grant funds were allocated to three community legal centres to assist with consumer protection related research, law reform and policy: Tenancy WA; Consumer Credit Legal Service; and Employment Law Centre of WA. This funding will be used during the next financial year to enable these community-based organisations to develop strategies and undertake a range of law and policy reform advocacy as the government reviews pieces of legislation.

Future outlook for the department

It is likely that the department’s operations will undergo a period of consolidation and continued change during 2018–19. Within the department, the most significant areas for change will be in relation to:

  • customer facing functions;
  • system development;
  • statutory exploration information function;
  • geospatial resource;
  • legal services; and
  • legally qualified policy resources.

Work will commence, in the new financial year, revisiting the Strategic intent utilised during the transition and developing a Strategic Plan for the next three to five years. The aim will be to build on the Strategic Intent and focus on developing priorities and targets to track our impact. Further detail on the Strategic Intent utilised during the transition is provided.