New app encourages workers to “speak up and save lives”

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The NSW Government has announced a new mobile reporting system that will give workers the ability to anonymously report dangerous working conditions to the workplace health and safety regulator SafeWork NSW.

The tool, called “Speak Up. Save Lives”, was announced by the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, Kevin Anderson. Anderson, via a statement, said it would “make it easy” for workers to report potentially fatal workplace risks.

The tool, a smart application for mobile phones, will allow workers to send up to three photos to SafeWork NSW. The app will use keep the user’s location and details anonymous if they so wish.

The app is expected to go live in early 2020 and will be free of charge.

Senior Workplace Health and Safety Manager from Employsure, Larry Drewsen has said that the principle of the initiative is simple: “No one should go to work and never return home.” He said, “From front-line workers and employees all the way to upper management, it’s essential that everybody works together to ensure every Australian worker arrives home safely and without injury after each and every shift.”

Drewsen also stressed that safety is a collaborative effort, saying, “Whether you’re a worker, an employee, employer or business owner, everyone has the right to feel safe at work. No workplace should be unsafe to work in, and injuries or fatalities should not be tolerated.”

Drewsen said while the initiative was positive, he had some concerns about the effectiveness of the app.

“In principle, a forum for workers to have easy access to report issues to the regulator is a positive initiative, particularly in situations where issues are not being addressed by management,” he noted. “However…because of the ease of access, workers will be more inclined to go straight to the regulator and bypass the consultation process, thus undermining one of the key objectives of the health and safety system.”

Drewsen added, “My real fear is that issues may not be addressed until the regulator, who is already stretched, is able to respond. The potential consequences [there will be] injuries that may have otherwise been prevented through the consultative process.”

The initiative coincides with the annual National Safety Month run by WorkSafe Australia in October to spotlight the importance of work health and safety.