Heather Napier
Founder, Safety Leadership


  • Over 25 years experience in delivering improved safety
  • Advises leading health care groups including aged care and private hospital clients
  • National Head of Workplace Health and Safety for Opal Healthcare (80 aged care homes in NSW, VIC, QLD and WA; ~8,500 staff) from 2012 to 2022
    • achieved dramatic improvements in safety and reductions in cost
    • guided Opal into the NSW self-insurance program
  • Improved safety at Sydney Ferries and reduced costs by over 40%

Safety Leadership in Aged Care: Improving Safety, Driving Retention, Reducing Costs

The aged care labour force is a key strategic issue

Injury rates in aged care are high – staff perceive them to be getting worse
– The Prime Minister’s Draft National Care and Support Economy Strategy 2023 noted that there is significant room for improving workplace safety in care industries
– average Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR) in aged care is 24.8 more than double the LTIFR in hospitals (12.1) and Construction (9.6)
– some aged care providers manage safety well

Workers compensation costs are rising and are likely to continue to rise
– Victoria has announced a 42% increase in premiums
– In NSW, icare has stated that premiums need to increase by 22%
– aged care workers rates of pay are increasing (as they should!)

Safety is a robust indicator of the strength of a workplace culture
– Better safety = stronger culture (higher engagement and improved retention/lower turnover)
– Better safety = lower costs

Safety is a key part of ESG reporting

Lessons learned on the journey to better safety – insights from Ian Thorley, CEO of Estia until 2022, Harley Wright (ex Opal CFO) and Heather Napier (ex Opal Head of Safety)
– Leadership is key; practical steps to safety leadership and a robust safety culture
– How to measure and benchmark safety
– Initiatives that really work (and those that don’t!)