Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 27, 2023


SafeWork SA Investigations

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (15:13): My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector. Will the minister inform the council about the use of body-worn cameras in work health and safety investigations?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:14): I thank the honourable member for his question and his very strong interest and advocacy over most of his life for working people in South Australia and their safety. As members of this council would appreciate, the careful collection and preservation of evidence is an essential element of the investigation of serious offences.

This is just as important for offences under the work health and safety regime as it is for other laws of this state. That is why we have been pleased to welcome the recently introduced new regulations under the Surveillance Devices Act to clarify the ability of the investigators and inspectors at SafeWork SA to use body-worn cameras.

These cameras are fitted to the front of inspectors' uniforms and record audio and video footage during worksite visits and while undertaking compliance and investigation activities. Inspectors have been trained in the use of these cameras and will advise people of the presence of the camera and their intention to use them to record audio and video. The cameras are consistent with cameras used by other investigative agencies including SAPOL, the Environment Protection Authority and Consumer and Business Services.

The use of these cameras by SafeWork SA staff has a number of significant benefits. Firstly, the audio and footage recorded will reduce disputes and enable complaints to be more easily investigated and resolved by reviewing the relevant footage. If a SafeWork inspector happens to observe a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act while on a worksite, there will be an independent record of that behaviour.

Secondly, it will support transparency and accountability by creating that independent record of the actions undertaken by SafeWork SA inspectors when administrating their duties in the exercising of their statutory powers. If there is any doubt about the proper exercise of powers and functions by an inspector, then the body-worn camera footage will be able to assist in reviewing that. Indeed, allowing inspectors to use body-worn cameras is consistent with the 2018 ICAC evaluation of SafeWork SA, which recommended the use of these cameras to reduce the risk of any disputes in the future.

Thirdly, it's hoped that these cameras will reduce any aggressive behaviour towards SafeWork SA inspectors by encouraging respectful interactions and keeping a record of any such behaviour. One would hope that anyone who is inclined to take an aggressive stance towards SafeWork inspectors will moderate their behaviour knowing it will be caught on this footage.

Recordings from these body-worn cameras will be stored in a secure evidence management system with controlled access and are subject to strict confidentiality provisions contained within the Work Health and Safety Act. That means these audio and video recordings can only be used for a proper purpose authorised under the Work Health and Safety Act. With this new regime to use body-worn cameras, we are continuing to give SafeWork SA and its staff the tools they need to effectively improve work health and safety outcomes in the state.