Around the States

Australian Capital Territory

ACT Work Safety Commissioner, Mark McCabe, has welcomed the official launch of WorkSafe ACT’s Hazardman project by Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations, Simon Corbell.

“Hazardman is a light-hearted and engaging way to get young people , who are amongst our most vulnerable workers, or future workers, talking about workplace safety,” Mr McCabe said.

Hazardman is a graphic novel style work safety superhero featured in a series of comics, fact sheets and other resources developed by WorkSafe ACT with the support of the national body, Safe Work Australia. The resources also feature a series of villains, based on common workplace hazards.

“The project is a fresh and original approach to a topic which is often overlooked or considered dull or unimportant. We cannot afford for the importance of safety to be devalued or under-estimated and the ACT Government is committed to making sure it stays on the agenda,” said Mr McCabe.

Recent statistics show that workers aged 15-24 have the highest rate of workplace injuries per hours worked. Manual handling and slips, trips and falls are the most common injury types for young workers, and the first few Hazardman comics and fact sheets are set to examine how these can be avoided.

Recent climbing temperatures have prompted an urgent warning, reminding employers of the risks associated with extreme heat. ACT employers are being urged to consider thermal comfort and sun safety in assessing the risk associated with business as usual.

“People who may be at risk include anyone working outdoors. We need to think more broadly about who is affected by heat hazards. Construction and road workers must take precautions and adapt work practices in hot conditions however this also applied to other groups, for example people in child care or working at sport and recreation venues and mobile health professionals,” said Mr McCabe.

New South Wales

Workers compensation premium reductions

Given the current cost savings to the NSW Workers Compensation scheme following the recent legislative changes, many employers are benefiting from rate reductions on their premium renewals. An average of 7.5% reduction was applied to policies that commenced or renewed on or after 4pm on 30 June 2013 and before 4pm 31 December 2013. The second rate reduction averages 5% and applies to policies that commence or renew on or after 4pm 31 December 2013. There are approximately 200,000 employers across 376 industries who will benefit from the 5% reduction. This comes on top of the 7.5% reduction which applied to 167,000 employers.

The average 12.5% rate reduction for NSW businesses for the 2013 premium cycle will benefit individual employers and the NSW by returning $330 million to help grow the economy.

Safe Work Australia has reported that in 2012/13 the NSW return to work rate improved by 3% to 88% – making it higher than the national average of 86%.

Queensland

Queensland Parliament has passed the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2013.

The passed Act includes a number of changes, some which came into effect on 15 October 2013, and others which came into effect on 29 October 2013, for all claims from these dates.

The most significant changes to the Act are as follows:-

The introduction of a threshold of greater than 5% degree of permanent impairment (DPI) to access common law damages.

This applies to injuries from 15 October 2013. For injuries that occur over a period of time, the date of injury is considered to be the date of initial health practitioner consultation for the injury.

Statistically WCQLD indicate that in most cases, workers are able to successfully return to work during their statutory claim and their focus will be to continue to work with employers and injured workers for a quick and safe return to work where possible during the statutory claim.

The method for assessing permanent impairment and calculating statutory lump sum compensation has changed from work related impairment (WRI) to degree of permanent impairment (DPI).

This change applies to claims with a date of injury from 15 October 2013 whereby injuries will be assessed using a new Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (GEPI). Workers will receive an offer of lump sum compensation based on their DPI. Physical injuries are combined to calculate the DPI; however psychiatric injuries cannot be combined with physical injuries.

The criteria for Rehab and Return to Work Coordinators (RRTWC) has changed.

If an employer is in a ‘high risk industry’ and wages in the preceding year are greater than 2600 x QOTE (Queensland ordinary time earnings), then they must have a RRTWC)

If an employer is not in a ‘high risk industry’ they only need a RRTWC if wages are greater than 5200 x QOTE.

For 2013-2014 QOTE is $1370.10. RRTWCs are no longer required to complete a workplace rehabilitation course through a registered training organisation. Instead RRTWCs must be appropriately qualified.

Employment must be ‘the major significant contributing factor’ for psychological or psychiatric claims.

For psychological or psychiatric injuries (including aggravations of pre-existing conditions) workers are only entitled to compensation if their employment was ‘the major significant contributing factor’ to their condition.

Employers can request a prospective worker to provide them with information about pre-existing injuries or medical conditions.

Disclosure of pre-existing conditions applies to ‘employment processes’ from 29 October 2013. An employer may ask a prospective worker in writing about pre-existing injuries or medical conditions. The request must be accompanied by specific information about the future duties and the implications if the worker fails to properly disclose their conditions. A worker may not be entitled to compensation or damages if they have knowingly made a false or misleading disclosure about an injury or condition and they suffer an aggravation of that injury or condition.

Employers can request a prospective worker’s claims history summary from Office of Fair & Safe Work QLD

This request must be made on the approved form, with an application fee, and the prospective worker’s consent. OFSWQ will soon publish information about this process.

Q-COMP regulatory functions to move to OFSWQ

Most powers have moved to OFSWQ effective 29 October 2013. These include: Medical Assessment Tribunals, reviews and appeals, self-insurance licensing, monitoring insurer performance, scheme data analysis and approved forms. As part of the integration, OFSWQ will absorb existing Q-COMP staff.

OFSWQ to prosecute all worker fraud cases, and penalties increased.

OFSWQ will manage all prosecutions from 29 October 2013. WorkCover will send a detailed brief to OFSWQ if they reasonably believe someone has committed an offence. The penalties will increase to up to $55 000 or a maximum of five years imprisonment (previously up to $44 000 and maximum 18 months imprisonment).

Insurers to provide a mandatory accredited Return to Work (RTW) program for common law claimants.

Insurers (including self-insurers) must take all steps reasonably practicable to secure rehabilitation and early return to work. Insurers must develop and maintain a RTW program in consultation with the employer, worker and registered treatment providers. If a worker lodges a Notice of Claim Workcover QLD must refer them to an accredited RTW program, unless they can’t participate because of their injury. Common law rehabilitation applies to all claims, unless litigated.

South Australia

In December 2013, Greg McCarthy, CEO WorkCover Corporation of South Australia outlined their performance in 2013 and the focus for 2014. With the objective of improving return to work outcomes and reducing the unfunded liability, the three key areas of focus for 2014 were identified to be:

  • Active Management. Historically the Corporate has adopted a more passive approach to the management of the Scheme. With the introduction of the new management team of experienced workers compensation professionals the Corporation is now actively driving better performance in the Scheme. Success to date includes the successful prosecution of three WorCover fraud cases in the past 12 months.
  • New areas of innovation. The introduction of a new Early Intervention program for small businesses was raised. Whilst acknowledging the idea of Early Intervention is not new, Mr McCarthy reported that their program is the first of its kind in Australia, as it is deployed across the Scheme. He reported that this program is being run through the states two claims agents, where dedicated occupational therapists and physiotherapists have been employed as mobile return to work consultants. These consultants undertake worksite visits within 72 hours of an agent being notified of an injury. Mr McCarthy reported that over 100 worksite visits were undertaken as a result of this program in 2013.
  • Awareness and engagement. highlighting the importance of stakeholder engagement and education. WorkCoverSA are committed to ensuring the Scheme is seen focus on helping injured workers recover and return to work, rather than focusing on compensation.

In October 2013, the WorkCoverSA Annual Report was tabled, announcing a $23 million profit for the South Australian Workers rehabilitation and Compensation Scheme. The Chairman of the Board, Mr Phillip Bently announced that there was also a 4.5% turn around in the Scheme funding ratio (63.6%). He reported that the funds investment strategy has achieved a $253 million return which he labelled as “a very positive result considering the volatility of the global financial markets”. He reported a small deterioration in the claims liability ($93 million), some of which he reports was related to the transition in moving from a single agent to two agents mid-way through the year. Mr Bentley reported WorkCoverSA had implemented a number of reforms in the past year to improve the Scheme’s performance, including early intervention programs, and the new return to work services strategy, designed to reduce workplace rehabilitation services spend, and ensuring that providers deliver better value for money and return to work results for the Scheme.

Victoria

WorkSafe’s annual Injury Support and Service awards showcased the outstanding performances of employees from Allianz Australia, Gallagher Bassett, CGU, QBE and Xchanging which were announced in November last year. We offer our congratulations to the winners.

Excellence in Personal Injury Management:

Lauren Ryan (Allianz Australia)

Improving Client Performance:

Danny Benjamin (Gallagher Bassett Workers Compensation Victoria)

Excellence in Return to Work:

Don Ayers (CGU Workers Compensation Victoria)

Excellence in Service Delivery:

Kellie Salmon (Allianz Australia)

Excellence in Innovation:

Impairment Benefits Risk Streaming Model (CGU Workers Compensation Victoria)

Excellence in Premium Management:

Neetu Girdhar (Xchanging)

Outstanding Contribution by a Team:

N2 – National Claims Team (Allianz Australia)

Outstanding New Starter:

Brentton Peacock (Xchanging)

Outstanding Contribution by an Individual:

Pauline Stebbing (QBE Workers Compensation Victoria)

Northern Territory

The sixth meeting of the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Advisory Council occurred on the 19th of November 2013. This meeting focused on the Review of the NT Workers Compensation Scheme. The Chair and Deputy Chair presented an overview of their Preliminary Report into the Review of (NT) Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act preliminary report.

The Council discussed the Preliminary Report and members considered the following issues:

  • The definition of injury/disease
  • The calculation of normal weekly earnings
  • Mediations
  • Lump sum payments
  • Medical treatment and costs
  • Journey claims
  • Death benefits
  • Other items contained within the report

The report will be published on the NT WorkSafe website and submissions are welcome from all stakeholders. WorkSafe NT stated the final report is expected by 31 March 2014. It was announced on the 22nd January 2014 that the initial timeframe for public comment on the review has been extended until Friday the 28th of February. WorkSafe NT reports that this extension has been issued to allow stakeholder additional time to formulate a considered and detail response to the preliminary report that has been published.

Western Australia

On the 8th of January, WorkCover WA announced the reappointment of the following board members for another 3 year term:

  • Mr Greg Joyce as chairman,
  • Ms Karin lee, nominee member experienced in employers interests,
  • Mrs Victoria Wilmont, nominee member experienced in accounting and financial management

WorkCover WA also announced the appointment of Mr Owen Whittle to its Board as the nominee member experienced in workers’ interests. Mr Whittle has been appointed for a term expiring on 29 December 2014 and will replace Ms Linda Morich. WorkCover WA recognised the knowledge and experience Ms Morich contributed to the Board during her tenure.

In November 2013, Workcover WA announced recent legislative amendments, including presumptive workers’ compensation laws for fire fighters that benefit career fire fighters who contract cancer performing fire fighting duties. The new legislative was effective as of the 13th of November 2013, and a factsheet has been provided on the WorkCover WA website.

WorkCover WA also recently uploaded the Clinical FrameWork document to their website making it available to all stakeholders of the Scheme. The Clinical FrameWork has been designed to support healthcare professionals to deliver the right care at the right to individuals with a compensable injury. It outlines a set of guiding principles for the delivery of health services, and includes:

  • Measurement and demonstration of the effectiveness of treatment
  • Adoption of a biopsychosocial approach
  • Empowering the injured person to manage their injury
  • Implementing goals focused on optimising function, participation and return to work
  • Base treatment on best available research evidence

In October 2013 WorkCover WA announced the publication of a discussion paper reviewing the Workers Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981. The paper is designed as a basis for consultation with stakeholders in the Scheme. The discussion paper covers the following areas:

    1. outstanding recommendations from the 2009 Legislative Review;
    2. identified technical and process issues with the current Act;
    3. a complete redraft of the Act with the objectives of introducing plain language and contemporary drafting conventions.

The aim of the review is to rewrite the Act in a clear and cohesive way. Many of the recommendations relate to changes to the language and structure of the Act. Inconsistencies arising from repeated amendments are addressed and improvements to administrative or decision making processes have been suggested.

Tasmania

Congratulations to the 2013 WorkSafe Tasmania award winners.

Overall Winners

VEC Civil Engineering Pty Ltd

Individual Dan Barich Caterpillar Underground Mining

Best Workplace Health and Safety Management Systems

Public Sector: Tasmanian Health Organisation

Private Sector: VEC Civil Engineering Pty Ltd

Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety

Employee: Dan Barich Caterpillar Underground Mining

Manager: Ted Bell – TasGas Networks Pty Ltd

Best Health and Safety Small Business

Select Roofing and Guttering Pty Ltd

Health and Safety Representative of the YearLauren Filippe – Saffire (Federal Group)

Best Injury Management and RTW System

VEC Civil Engineering Pty Ltd

Commitment to a Workplace Health & Wellbeing Program

Individual: Lisa Burnell – Ronald Young and Co Builders

Organisation: Joint winners Cement Australia Holdings Pty Ltd and Synergy Capital Management Ltd.