Australian Capital Territory
Public service bosses are improving workplace safety, according to insurer Comcare.
New workers’ compensation claims are down 25 per cent this year after department and agency budgets have been liable for a number of years for claim blow-outs.
In line with the reduction in claims, the penalty charge added to departmental premiums for underperformance has been reduced from 13.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent.
“Efforts in prevention and early intervention are getting results, with the number of new claims falling by 25 per cent over the past five years,” Comcare said in a statement.
“Employers are making their workplaces safer and Comcare’s activities are contributing to this through better engagement and a greater focus on early intervention and return to and recovery at work.
“The number of new claims has fallen from around 4000 a year in 2012 to 3000 now.”
The main factor in reducing premiums has been efforts to get sick and injured workers back to work earlier said a Comcare spokesman.
“Increases in the length of time off work receiving incapacity payments were a major cause of the rise in premium payer costs up to 2013,” he said.
“Claim duration after injury has levelled off since then and is starting to show signs of improvement in the critical first six months after injury.
“These trends are having a positive impact on the financial position of the premium scheme.”
New South Wales
The lives of workers and business owners should be healthier, safer and more productive thanks to a new plan by SafeWork NSW.
Roadmap for NSW is a six-year plan that sets ambitious targets to reduce the rate of injury, illness and fatality in NSW.
Roadmap, launched in August this year, aims to reduce work-related fatalities by 20 per cent, serious injuries and illnesses by 30 per cent and serious musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses by 30 per cent through engaging and empowering workplaces to manage health and safety more effectively.
Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said while NSW had made good progress towards meeting national safety targets, the rates of work-related of injuries, illnesses and fatalities were still too high. In fact, 30,902 NSW workers were harmed in 2015-16 at a cost of $17 billion to gross state product.
“Over the last ten years, fewer people are being seriously or fatally injured in NSW workplaces,” MrDunphy said.
“But the number of workplace serious injuries and illnesses remain too high.”
Mr Dunphy said the Roadmap focussed on building the ability of businesses to better manage work health and safety. “These innovative programs will be developed through data driven insights and information sharing with stakeholders so that practical solutions to current work health and safety risks can be found.”
Too many families are devastated when a loved one doesn’t come home from work or is seriously injured on the job. But a dedicated group of Queensland businesses is leading the way in their commitment to keeping workers safe or getting them back to work after an injury or illness.
Almost 40 businesses were recognised for making a genuine difference to their workplace by being named as finalists for this year’s Safe Work and Return to Work Awards. The Safe Work and Return to Work Awards showcase excellence in safety or getting workers back to meaningful duties as soon as possible.
Queensland’s Industrial Relations Minister, The Hon Ignazia Graziella Grace said the nominees had invested in the wellbeing of their employees, settling for nothing less than maximum safety. “And if an injury does occur, they have good processes in place to get that worker back on deck as soon as safely possible,” she said.
The Safe Work and Return to Work Awards are a highlight of Safe Work Month which runs during October. The award winners will be announced at a breakfast ceremony in Brisbane on October 18.
Ensuring businesses have appropriate workers’ compensation insurance, declare superannuation and understand ‘who is a worker’, will be a key area of focus for WorkCover Queensland this year, as part of a state-wide compliance and education program.
WorkCover Queensland’s audit of 650 businesses last year found that 15 per cent of employers omitted to declare superannuation as part of their assessable wages, 8 per cent omitted to declare wages paid to contractors deemed workers and 3 per cent were uninsured.
During the same period, uninsured businesses lodged 260 workplace injury claims with WorkCover, which cost the scheme about $6.5 million.
This year, WorkCover will increase its employer compliance audits backed by data matching systems linked to the Australian Tax Office and Office of State Revenue and enforce significant financial penalties for non-compliance.
Last year, WorkCover visited 2300 Queensland businesses from the construction, agriculture, manufacturing, retail and racing sectors to educate employers on their responsibility to insure workers with an accident insurance policy.
The Victorian Ombudsman recently handed down a report examining the handling of complex compensation claims, with a study of approximately 65 complex long- term cases,
“We looked at cases from all five WorkSafe agents,” Ombudsman Deborah Glass said.
“Plainly, the cases we examined were those in which concerns had been raised, and cannot be said to be indicative of the tens of thousands of cases dealt with by agents each year without controversy. But the evidence of unreasonable decision-making strongly suggests that at the disputed end of the spectrum, the balance is tilting away from fairness.”
The report highlighted some deficiencies in the area of dealing with complex claims.
The report found that WorkSafe had gradually improved and strengthened its management of the Independent Medical Examiner (IME) system, but that there was scope for further improvement, including:
- Targeting its quality assurance process to those IMEs subject to a high number of complaints
- Systematically reviewing agent claims decisions where a deficient IME report is identified, to examine whether the agent incorrectly disentitled a worker.
WorkSafe Victoria Chief Executive Clare Amies acknowledged that the report highlighted a number of cases in which injured workers were not given the support and respect all injured workers deserve.
Ms Amies said WorkSafe and its insurance agents managed more than 90,000 injured worker claims a year and made more than two million decisions a year in relation to compensation and treatment.
“WorkSafe surveys injured workers each month to monitor how each of its insurance agents performs,” she said. “According to its latest annual survey of 5,000 randomly selected injured workers, more than 86 per cent were satisfied with the service they received.”
Ms Amies stated that the Ombudsman’s report focused on injured workers with complex medical conditions who had received weekly payments over a long period.
“As the Ombudsman identified in her report, WorkSafe has already begun work in a number of other key areas to further improve decision making processes. WorkSafe will do everything it can to improve the service provided to injured workers so that, whenever possible, they can recover and return to work as soon as it is safe to do so.”
WorkSafe released figures in August this year that showed 108 businesses and 21 individuals were fined or ordered to pay restitution of more than $6.2 million for non-compliance with Work Health & Safety obligations.
WorkSafe Chief Executive, Clare Amies said the record fines were a reminder to businesses and individuals of the significant penalties they faced if they did not comply with their health and safety obligations. “WorkSafe is committed to improving workplace health and safety and, if it is found that employers have failed to provide a safe working environment for their workers, they can expect to face large fines and significant damage to their reputation,” MsAmies said.
Positive actions and outcomes will be the focus of the 2017 WorkCover WA Return to Work Conference.
WorkCover WA recently announced that the conference would be held on May 3 and 4 at Perth’s Pan Pacific Hotel. The authority said it aimed to build on the success of the 2015 Injury Management Conference.
The program will include local and interstate experts who will:
- Promote positive pathways for returning injured workers to work
- Showcase the variety of return to work paths an injured worker can take
- Examine the important roles that scheme participants play in the return to work journey
- Discuss the ‘future of work’
- Outline the latest trends in the workers’ compensation scheme.
Conversation and debate about return to work best practices and initiatives will be encouraged and delegates will have opportunities to share their knowledge and applied learnings.
The conference is aimed at workers’ compensation and injury management professionals including:
- Workplace rehabilitation providers
- Injury management consultants
- Medical and allied health professionals
- Insurer representatives
- Legal practitioners
- Worker representatives
- Safety experts
A WorkSafe proactive inspection program is set to look at safety issues in the accommodation industry. WorkSafe WA inspectors will focus on smaller accommodation providers such as caravan parks, motels, and backpacker accommodation around the state.
WorkSafe WA Director Joe Attard said increased reports of soft tissue injuries in the accommodation industry prompted the inspection program.
“The industry has recorded an average of 197 lost time injuries per year over the past five years, with an average of 46 of these classified as severe, keeping the injured worker away from work for 60 days or more,” Mr Attard said. “The most common type of injury has been soft tissue injuries to the lower back, and the most frequent occupation to suffer injuries is commercial housekeeper.”
As part of this inspection program, inspectors will look at WorkSafe priority areas including slips, trips and falls (e.g. wet or oily floors or falls from steps), manual tasks (from making beds, cleaning and lifting), electrical safety and machine guarding.
Inspectors will also focus on issues more specific to the industry, such as:
- Control of infectious diseases – handling used needles and syringes
- New and young workers – training, instruction, supervision and reporting of safety issues
- Chemicals – risk assessments, labeling, storage and training in the use of hazardous substances
- Language and literacy issues
- Fire – prevention and evacuation plans
- Violence and aggression at work – prevention of violence and cash management
- Safety with knives and other sharp tools – maintenance and storage, training and instruction and personal protective equipment
- Protection from burns – from hot liquids, surfaces or steam
- Working in hot conditions – ventilation in hot kitchens, rest breaks in cool areas and consumption of fluids
- Beverage gas safety
“People working in the accommodation industry face a wide range of potential risks, and – as in all industries – risk assessments should be carried out and the identified risks minimised as far as is practicable,” Mr Attard said.
“During this program, inspectors will work with the aid of a checklist to ensure consistency, and this checklist and the OSH Newsletter for this program are available on the WorkSafe website so employers can be aware of what to expect if visited by an inspector.
“The primary aim of these proactive inspection programs is to provide employers with information on how to identify risks to the safety and health of workers, but inspectors will issue notices if they find breaches of the workplace safety laws.”
SafeWork SA has called on all South Australians to prioritise safety in their workplaces following the release of the National Safe Work Month program online.
The safety watchdog has run events every October since 2005 to showcase the latest developments in workplace safety, health and wellbeing.
Some of the issues addressed during these events include mental fitness at work, illegal importation of asbestos, cyber safety and health and wellbeing. Other topics include how to prevent heat stress, reduce the likelihood of falling victim to an armed robbery and the steps to a safe workplace when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
“This year there is a wide range of topics being covered at free events right throughout October and plenty of resources for people to use themselves to make safety a priority in their workplaces,” SafeWork SA Executive Director Marie Boland said.
This year, SafeWork SA’s new mobile work health and safety advisor service will be on show to provide practical support to workplaces on how to better understand abd meet their work health and safety responsibilities.
“Our WHS advisors have no inspector powers, so people can feel more comfortable asking us to visit their workplace to provide some help,” Ms Boland said
“People can ask our experienced advisors to visit their workplace to join a toolbox talk, a safety walk around the site or to help them identify and improve work health and safety issues specific to their circumstances.”
The events will offer an opportunity to local South Australian manufacturing businesses to explain what makes their approach to work health and safety successful, with a behind the scenes look at the factory line.
“There is plenty to see and do so I encourage all workplaces to get involved and make work health and safety their priority in October,” Ms Boland added.
October is Safe Work Month, and NT WorkSafe encourages all Territorians to get involved to raise awareness of workplace safety.
This year NT WorkSafe, the Small Business Safety Program and partner organisation Beyond Blue will deliver free safety seminars and other activities in major regional centres across the Territory.
Innovative leadership creating safe workplaces is the focus of this year’s WorkSafe Tasmania Conference.
Held at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Launceston on 27 and 28 October, the theme for this exciting new event is ‘Leadership, culture and organisational safety’.
The conference explores the importance of intelligent, innovative leadership for creating workplaces that nurture people to be engaged in safe, productive and meaningful work.
International, national and local experts will deliver topics focusing on:
- Workplace bullying, complementing WorkSafe’s new campaign and guidance material
- Absenteeism, presenteeism, personality and job design
- Emotional intelligence and safety leadership
- Performance management and WHS risk