Practical proposals for improving the Department of Labour’s approach to high hazard industries
Recommendation seven: Hold off further work on funding until these practical suggestions are implemented or progressed
The Department has only limited resources available to support its high hazard work. With only one Senior Adviser in place, the Department is spending about as much as it gets from the petroleum industry by way of its contribution to the health and safety levy. This is because the levy is a flat rate of $0.05 on every $100 of liable earnings.
The Department already prioritises most of its activities on places where harm is occurring. This effectively means, low risk, low impact activities - like administrative work - effectively cross-subsidises the Department's work on high risk, high impact industries like construction.
However, because the levy is a finite pool of money, any additional expenditure on high hazard industries necessarily impacts on the funding available for other, non high hazard activities.
Flag the issue of funding but take it no further for now
Many of the recommended actions will not cost a significant amount of money to implement. However, some - such as those relating to additional resources through expanded staffing and the use of third-parties - will place significant burdens on the Department's ability to fund this area.
What these costs are and how they can be accommodated can not be confirmed until further work has been completed. However, rather than hold up implementation of any of these recommendations, it is suggested that work progress as far as possible without seeking additional funding. Instead, the Department should focus its attention on determining what level of additional funding it actually requires.
Funding for these expanded high hazard works could come from a number of sources including:
- shifting resources from other areas within the Labour Group (will necessarily impact on its service delivery in its other HSE work)
- obtaining agreement to utilise unallocated 'headroom' within the HSE levy funding. The HSE levy historically yields more money than is actually appropriated for health and safety activities. The excess is described as "the headroom". Freeing up this headroom funding into the Labour Group's baseline - if not offset elsewhere in the Department - represents a net increase in the Department's overall baseline
- obtaining additional funding from government. This would also expand the Department's baseline (unless off-set elsewhere in the Department's budget)
- seeking funding from other agencies-such as Crown Minerals. Although how this would work in a practical sense is hard to determine
- seeking industry funding-although it is likely that there would be constraints on achieving this under legislative framework (i.e. the Department has no power to levy an industry fee or collect money from industry).
91. Flag with the Minister of Labour and other agencies that the Department intends to raise the issue of resourcing at a later date as and when it has a clear idea of proposals and costs. [NSM]