Digital engagement

Research question

Can digital engagement methods (SMS, email) be as effective as traditional ones (phone call) in leading a business to comply with a regulator’s enquiry?

What is this research about?

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an exceptional set of circumstances and orders such as the Public Health (COVID-19) Gatherings Order 2020 (NSW) will undoubtedly have significant impacts on Australian businesses and workers.

To reduce the regulatory burden, recognise communication preferences and minimise the spread of COVID-19, WHS regulators have adjusted their response to avoid face-to-face interaction between their inspectors and members of the public, when it is reasonable to do so.

One of these adjustments is to primarily address matters that are not life threatening, by other means than a workplace visit. This includes communication mechanisms such as SMS, email, and telephone.

While digital communication methods form part of the regulator’s usual toolkit, the factors that impact their effectiveness in achieving regulatory outcomes are poorly understood.

This project aims to explore the effectiveness of different digital engagement methods used by inspectors to communicate and achieve regulatory outcomes. This includes how responsive is a businesses following the initial interaction with the regulator, using one or a combination of SMS, email and phone communication.  The research will also look at the extent and quality of the actions taken to address the WHS concern expressed during the initial interaction.

Specifically, the project aims to determine whether digital engagement methods (SMS, email) can be as effective as traditional ones (phone call) in leading a business to comply with a regulator’s enquiry.

What will the researchers do?

Following the initial interaction where a SafeWork NSW inspector communicates a WHS concern to the business by SMS, email or phone, data will be collected to explore details about the business and their understanding of the information provided by the inspector in the initial interaction.  Details on the timeliness and quality of actions taken to improve their WHS management will also be analysed.

Follow-up interviews with businesses and inspectors will enable a deeper understanding of the factors that impact the effectiveness of digital engagement methods and their impacts on compliance long-term.

Research partners and stakeholders

SafeWork NSW


Project commenced: May 2020

Project completion: May 2021

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