Top officials were speechless after discovering poor employment environments are often understated.
Authorities were surprised to find substandard conditions are regularly underreported. They blamed this lack of transparency for weak regulatory action.
“Leaders across WorkSafe and [the] Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety have been caught off-guard by the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment across the mining industry. Many leaders raised the underreporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment as a key challenge limiting their ability to take action,” the final report on Western Australia’s regulatory capability review of WorkSafe mines safety said.
The review conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) recommended that bureaucrats better familiarise themselves with workplace bullying, violence and sexual harassment.
“Given the extent of coverage that workplace sexual harassment in particular has received over the past five years, leaders in the area of safety regulation need to be aware of the challenges across the mining industry,” the report said.
The document shows in the 2022 financial year only 17 per cent of resources employees, who experienced sexual harassment, reported it to their supervisor and just 13 per cent complained to the WA Police Force. The mining sector also had the fifth-highest rate of sexual harassment at 40 per cent compared to the national average of 33 per cent back in 2018.
PwC slammed regulators for simply reacting to complaints instead of adopting a more proactive stance. This allegedly prolonged substandard work conditions.
“It is clear that an approach which relies on formal reporting before action is taken is insufficient for sexual assault and sexual harassment,” the report said.
“A proper understanding of the nature of sexual assault and sexual harassment should have prompted a review of WorkSafe’s approach to these hazards at a much earlier date.”
The professional services firm also indicated tougher legislative administration might lift the number of complaints.
“Use of appropriate enforcement measures [is recommended] to limit ongoing, deliberate underreporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment,” the report said.
“There are many barriers that prohibit speaking up including fear of retaliation, fear of not being believed and being unsure of the pathways for reporting.”
No work, health and safety undertakings or penalties had ever been imposed for underreporting sexual assault or harassment under the Golden State’s Work Health and Safety Act at the time of publication.