Ensuring a safe working environment

Managing for wellbeing: people and culture

The success of the EPA, and our ability to become a world class regulator, depends on our people. From our administrative and operational staff to our Senior Leadership Team and CEO, we all play a part in achieving our purpose.

To succeed in an environment of rapid change, we are designing and building for the future in everything we do. Equipping our people with sector-leading adaptive skills and attributes will make a long-lasting impact on the protection of the environment and our evolution as a world class regulator.

In 2020–21 we saw the continuation of a worldwide pandemic and significant floods in NSW. We do not underestimate our responsibility for keeping our staff safe. This section outlines some of the ways we do that.

Wellbeing, health and safety

close up of hands doing cpr on a manikin

CPR demonstration on manikin. Photo: iStock

The EPA’s wellbeing, health and safety (WHS) performance is reported to the Board through the Audit and Risk Committee, and to the Executive members, who reinforce our focus on creating a safe and great place to work. All Executive members have a performance target of a minimum of one safety interaction per month, which helps to drive a ‘safety first’ culture.

Also helping to progress the ‘safety first’ approach has been a program of WHS training modules. These have included:

  • Black Dog Institute wellbeing modules
  • Remote First Aid – 32 staff completed
  • Provide First Aid – 71 staff completed
  • Defensive Driving – 26 staff completed
  • Driving Four Wheel Drives – 33 staff completed
  • Training for the new WHS reporting system, CAMMS.

Our WHS training modules are subject to ongoing review and updating. Key updates under way include:

  • EPA Dealing with Aggressive Stakeholders
  • EPA WHS for All
  • EPA WHS for Leaders.

Progressing the WHS Management System

The EPA has started to deliver a new wellbeing, health and safety framework that will underpin a safety culture and improve how we respond to our dynamic operating environment.

The framework includes:

  • updated divisional and organisational WHS risk registers
  • revised documentation to guide accountabilities, operations and procedures
  • pathways to build the capability of the agency and its people.

While our work, health and safety services are provided by DPIE Cluster Corporate Services, we have also increased our in-house WHS expertise. We partner with the DPIE WHS team on key safety initiatives, system improvements and policy and procedure reviews.

We also carry out investigations to identify:

  • the root causes of potential issues
  • potential trends
  • continuous improvement and corrective actions required.

Last year saw a significant drop in reports of near misses, hazards and incidents (see table on next page). This was observed across NSW (and Australia), and was likely due to changes to work and lifestyle in response to the lockdown. Timely investigations were completed for the majority of reports, to investigate the root cause of potential issues, identify trends and continuous improvement and corrective actions required.

When staff began returning to the office in March 2021, the EPA stayed vigilant to ensure that staff wellbeing was supported and health and safety processes were maintained during the transition.

EPA claims and reports

Item 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19 2019–20 2020–21

Incidents, accidents and injuries reported






Workers compensation claims made






Value of workers compensation claims*






* Based on net incurred.
**Correction on 2019–20 figure reported in the Annual Report 2019–20.


We are continuing to work toward reducing the overall number of incidents, accidents and injuries through a strong commitment to making the EPA a safe place to work for everyone.


To support this focus, our Audit and Risk Committee asked for a deep dive into a WHS issue of concern: aggressive behaviour of stakeholders. This was carried out in the last quarter of 2020–21. Findings will inform how we might better engage and monitor stakeholders, develop capability, manage and report on interactions, and identify hazards.

Health and safety representatives to support EPA employees

Health and Safety Representatives have contributed to wellbeing, health and safety activities throughout the past year. They promoted their role and participated in hazard identification workshops and Job Safety Analysis (JSA) development. They will continue to consult with work groups across the EPA, providing a voice for staff in the event they don’t feel represented or heard during the consultation process.

Support during the COVID-19 pandemic

Throughout 2020–21, the global COVID-19 pandemic triggered psychological and physical challenges for our people. Hybrid and remote working became a requirement and the norm; we adapted our work practices

to fit this new reality. We also put in place new measures to support our staff and leaders during this difficult period.

Two-way communication

During this time we:

  • introduced a hotline for staff questions about COVID-related requirements and resources
  • ran regular ‘Road to Recovery’ sessions online
  • used several ‘Road to Recovery’ surveys to:
    • learn about the staff’s experience of flexible working
    • address COVID-19 safety concerns
    • capture any additional areas of support required.

Training and development online

As an organisation with a learning mindset, we aim to continually develop the skills and knowledge of our teams and people leaders. In 2020–21 we converted many of our training and development programs to an online format or developed them in that format from the start. Content areas included our regulatory environment and key activities such as sampling.

Short online programs such as our Leadership Learning ‘bites’ helped our leaders:

  • engage and coach their people, particularly through change
  • support their own wellbeing.

Exercise challenge

In April 2020 we set up an EPA Exercise Challenge to boost staff morale and overall wellbeing during lockdown. Hard work by the Regulatory Operations Project team created an impressively automated online weekly reporting tool that used the web-based platform SharePoint and the analytics toolkit Power BI. This was an excellent example of digital collaboration across the EPA.

The Exercise Challenge itself was also a great success. It ran for a year, to April 2021. It got bodies moving and generated some EPA-wide camaraderie with good-natured competition. It also resulted in some impressive statistics: staff clocked up more than 87,000 push-ups, 111,000 sit-ups, 171,000 squats and a whopping 13,980,850 metres walked! (That’s the equivalent of making three round trips of all EPA offices across the state).

NSW map showing a walking route around EPA offices

The 2020–21 Exercise Challenge, visualised as a walking round trip of all EPA offices.

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