New South Wales
The State government’s first-ever snapshot of mental health in NSW workplaces reveals almost half of businesses have no measures in place that specifically address mental health.
This snapshot is the result of the most comprehensive research ever conducted about mental health in NSW workplaces and will inform the Mentally Healthy Workplaces Summit in November and help develop a long-term strategy for mentally healthy workplaces across the state.
Given that the recent Return on Investment (ROI) Analysis of workplace mental health initiatives demonstrates that businesses that invest in health promotions can achieve a ROI of more than $4 for every $1 invested from reduced absenteeism and better productivity, “there’s a real opportunity for businesses to introduce valuable mental health programs in their workplaces while having a considerable impact on their business’s bottom line,” says NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Matt Kean.
According to Tanya Davies, the Minister for Mental Health, prevention and early intervention strategies are key to improving the mental health of workers and that the government is committed to improving mental health in NSW. While conceding there is more needed to be done to help businesses support staff with evidence-based mental health strategies, Minister Davies says the research will help shine a light on key areas requiring improvement and contribute to developing a long-term strategy for mentally healthy workplaces at this month’s Mentally Healthy Workplaces Summit.
Safework NSW’s new Musculoskeletal Disorder Strategy – part of their Work Health and Safety Roadmap 2022 – aims to help employees and employers reduce the incidence and severity of serious work- related injuries.
The Strategy highlights the impact of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace and identifies approaches to reduce their incidence and severity – approaches formulated via extensive consultation with industry stakeholders who not only provided expert advice on its implementation but their commitment to abiding by its recommendations.
Not surprisingly, the Strategy focuses on industries and occupations in which workers are at the greatest risk of musculoskeletal disorders including the supermarket and grocery store sector, state and local government, store persons, and health care and social assistance workers, to assist in developing viable ways to eliminate musculoskeletal injury risks. According to SafeWork NSW Executive Director Peter Dunphy, hazardous manual tasks account for 29 per cent of all injuries, making them the most common cause of injury in NSW workplaces. “Serious musculoskeletal injuries can occur when a worker performs the same movement repeatedly, works in a sustained or awkward posture or uses high or sudden force to handle objects. These injuries can be painful and have long-term and often costly impacts on businesses and their workers,” explains Dunphy. In the three years to July 2016, there were 19,525, major workers’ compensation claims for musculoskeletal disorders at an average cost of $32,744 each, a total cost to the government of over $600 million.
This Strategy augments SafeWork NSW’s Participative Ergonomics for Manual Tasks program, also known as PErforM, a hazardous manual task risk management system recommended for the reduction of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
Another part of SafeWork NSW’s Work Health and Safety Roadmap 2022 – the six-year plan to reduce serious work- related injuries and illnesses by 30 per cent – is the recently announced first-ever summit aimed at developing a statewide strategy to improve mental health in the workplace.
The Mentally Healthy Workplaces strategy will be developed by Australia’s leading mental health experts who will also attend the summit with business leaders, union representatives and government officials.
The Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean recognises that improving mental health strategies in the workplace can improve both productivity and quality of life at work and at home for the 800,000 people of working age in NSW.
A fall in the number of injured workers returning to work from 96.5 per cent to just over 92 per cent and an increase in the number of days taken off work from 47.2 to 48.2 days over the past two years prompted the State government to join forces with WorkCover Queensland to re-run the successful Getting back advertising campaign to get the message out that the best results are achieved when employers encourage and support injured staff to recover at work.
According to Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace, long periods off work can significantly reduce the likelihood of an injured worker ever returning to their job: “We know that if a person is off work for just 11 days, the chance of ever getting back starts significantly dropping. And the longer the absence stretches, the worse it gets,” said Minister Grace.
The Getting back campaign which ran in 2015 effectively raised awareness among workers, employers and medical professionals that work plays a vital role in the injury rehabilitation process, with the frequency of injured worker contact with their employer increasing 12% and the belief that the best course of action is getting back on the job early increasing by 7%. The State government and WorkCover Queensland are hoping for another positive response following the 2017 $1.8m campaign which was launched last month and features on TV and radio, in print and social media.
The WorkCover Queensland’s Annual Report 2016-2017 has revealed that its workers’ compensation scheme continues to deliver the lowest average premium rate in Australia for the third consecutive year.
In addition to maintaining the low premium rate in the country, the Report reveals WorkCover’s has achieved a 92.5% return to work rate for injured workers and implemented legislative reforms in relation to Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis and the National Injury Insurance Scheme for workplace injuries.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said WorkCover’s low premium rate ($1.20 per $100 of wages) and benefits package are delivering annual cost savings to Queensland businesses of up to $58.7 million. One cost saving for businesses is not having to pay WorkCover premiums for their apprentices, which, according to Grace, has the potential to save employers with between five and 20 workers up to $5,800 a year. More good news is that WorkCover benefits package will increase the early payment discount available to employers from 3 per cent to 5 per cent: “This means an employer who pays the average premium rate of $1.20 and who takes advantage of the early payment discount would pay the equivalent of $1.14 per $100 wages,” said Grace.
Minister Grace attributes WorkCover’s strong position, with $4.4 billion in funds under management, to disciplined financial management, prudent investment approach and cost control focus.
WorkSafe Victoria has recently bolstered its ‘on the beat’ teams in Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, Shepparton and Wangaratta with 18 inspectors and four investigators.
The new graduates join an inspectorate that makes over 40,000 visits to Victorian workplaces each year to target unsafe activities, enforce occupational health and safety laws, provide practical guidance on hazard identification and risk control, and promote consultation between employers and workers on health and safety matters. According to WorkSafe Chief Executive Clare Amies, the new graduates come from a range of industries including health care, construction, motor sport, government and major hazards facilities, and would therefore bring a broad range of expertise.
Breaching the 2004 OHS Act can prove costly for any company or organisation: In 2016/2017, 70 businesses were found guilty of breaching workplace laws and ordered to pay fines and costs totalling almost $4 million. On a positive note, the number of workplace injuries continues to decline even while the number of workplaces in Victoria continues to grow.
Australian Capital Territory
While Access Canberra recently drove home the importance of worker safety on sites and in workplaces with its National Safe Work Month, the organisation wants everyone to make safety a priority every day of the year.
Although the rate of workplace injury continues to decline in both the ACT and across Australia, Access Canberra says there is plenty of work that needs to be done. October saw WorkSafe inspectors visiting sites and partnering with a range of organisations to support their safety and wellbeing initiatives while unions, industry groups, employers and employees provided support. In light of the fact that manual handling and slips, trips and falls cause over half of all workplace injuries, Access Canberra reminds employers and employees to: recognise and report potential risks and hazards, be mindful of yours and other’s safety, take regular breaks or alternate tasks, avoid wet areas, don appropriate footwear and clothing, ensure walkways are clear and use correct lifting techniques – every day!
With their clear messages and infographics, WorkCover WA’s educational videos make learning about compensation claims, injury management and return to work processes for employees and employers quick and easy.
WorkCover WA has released an additional four educational videos providing essential information and assistance for injured workers, employers, GPs and other service providers.
Last month, four new videos joined WorkCover’s collection and include: Workers’ compensation insurance: a guide for employers, Injured workers: what are my entitlements? Dispute resolution: what happens if there’s a dispute? and Certificates of Capacity: guidance for doctors.
They join Making a Claim; Return to Work which explains the return to work process and available help for injured workers; Return to work: employer guide, that outlines how an employer can assist and support their injured worker back to work; and Case conferences, which explains how and why a case conference can be organised and utilised to help an injured worker return to work.
In an effort to improve entitlements for dependents of deceased workers as outlined in the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act of 1981, the Hon Bill Johnston MLA, Minister for Commerce and Industrial Relations has introduced the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Amendment Bill 2017 into Parliament’s Legislative Assembly on November 1.
The Bill will ensure dependent family members of workers who die in work- related accidents receive fair, reasonable and timely compensation by: increasing the lump sum payable to dependents; giving dependent children a share of lump sum; increasing the weekly child’s allowance; removing rules relating to ‘partial’ dependency which pertain to partners of deceased workers; providing ‘fair treatment’ of de facto partners of deceased workers including abolishing the two-year cohabitation period; and providing greater clarity and support for claimants seeking compensation including faster processing of claims.
Sticking to healthy habits, particularly with eating the right foods and committing to regular exercise is a challenge for many workers. In an effort to help workers develop sustainable healthy habits, the Tasmanian Government has introduced the Healthy Tasmania initiative. Part of the Government’s Healthy Tasmania Five Year Strategic Plan and supported by WorkSafe Tasmania, relevant government departments, peak industry groups and service providers, the initiative focuses on smoking, obesity, poor nutrition and low physical activity levels and provides a holistic approach to physical and psychosocial lifestyle habits. The initiative’s Healthy Tasmania website immediately engages visitors by asking ‘What’s your goal?’ and doesn’t overwhelm with just four choices: Eat well, Move more, Be a healthy weight, and Be smoke free as well as links to resources including the free Ritualize app which provides a 12-month program designed to help workers build healthy habits to improve their overall health and wellbeing at work and at home.
WorkSafe Tasmania wrapped up a successful WorkSafe Month 2017 event filled with new activities and events including the WorkSafer Expo, Walk for WHS and Wellbeing and Better Work Tas worksite visits which facilitated the sharing of insights on what works to improve safety and wellbeing.
With the WorkSafe Month wrapped up, Betty the Asbestos Bus will hit the road during November to deliver asbestos awareness throughout the island state. Betty is a mobile model home that demonstrates where asbestos can be located in and around any Australian home built or renovated before 1987.