Short-sighted redefinition of worker 3

In May 2013, Workcover Queensland supported the government’s intention to change the definition of worker to match that of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).  The definition re-emphasises the significance of the employer/employee relationship.  Workplace health and safety laws through most of Australia have recently changed to remove the reliance on the employer/employee relationship with the intention of clarifying the lines of responsibility for preventing harm.  The diversity between workers’ compensation and OHS definitions unnecessarily complicates the management of a worker’s health through the linear experience of employment.

The government believes such changes will reduce “red tape” but only in the narrow context of workers compensation.  The Work Health and Safety Act expands the definition of worker but another piece of legislation in the same State restricts it.  Inconsistencies of concepts are likely to lead to duplications, confusion and arguments that may generate as much unnecessary business and legal costs as the initiatives were intended to save. More…

Executive Director says WorkSafe has been reactive on workplace mental health 5

Ian Forsyth, Health and Safety Executive Director, for WorkSafe Victoria spoke at a breakfast seminar on 7 February 2012.  As a report on what WorkSafe has been doing and what they plan to do in 2012, it was reasonable but there were several issues that raised eyebrows or confused some in the audience.

Workplace Bullying

Ian Forsyth spent some time speaking about the importance of workplace bullying, repeatedly stressing that most calls to WorkSafe about bullying do not fit the definition that would allow WorkSafe to act.  No mention was made of the divergent views on workplace bullying coming through the public comment phase of the draft national code on workplace bullying over the last few months.

Several times Forsyth stressed that there were other avenues for action or appeal on matters that do not fit the WorkSafe definition, such as the Fair Work Ombudsman and other authorities.  This is the reality but the comments provide no real solution to handling the thousands of calls WorkSafe receives on workplace bullying each year.   More…

WorkCoverSA CEO faces hard tasks as new report damns WorkCover’s performance 7

Late April 2011 is becoming a period of turmoil in the South Australia’s WorkCover Corporation, on top of the government’s political turmoil from the sudden resignation of the Industrial Relations Minister, Bernard Finnigan, and a minister being charged with child pornography offences.  According to inDaily on 21 April 2011, WorkCover’s Deputy CEO, Jeff Matthews, and Chief Financial Officer, Ian Rhodes, left the organisation suddenly.  CEO Rob Thomson (ex-Workcover New South Wales) says that the positions were axed as part of a restructure.

On 27 April 2011, the most recent review into WorkCover’s operations was released.  The March 2011 report finds that the state’s workers compensation scheme

“…shows little evidence of improved return to work performance, in spite of very heavy referrals to and cost of vocational rehabilitation compared to comparable scheme.” More…

Success from enlightenment not compliance 5

An article in the InDaily online newspaper for 4 April 2011 provides several safety management issues that are worth pondering. (Thanks to the readers who brought the article to my attention)

Keith Brown was the CEO of South Australia’s Workcover Corporation earlier this century.  He has told InDaily that he lost his position due to a change in the politics of the state and has not been welcome since. (A more personal perspective on Brown was provided by Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson in a January 2011 blog comment.)

Brown says that the most effective way of reducing the unfunded liabilities of workers compensation is to communicate with all stakeholders in the injury management process.  He believes that

“WorkCover now operates more to service the needs of the bureaucracy compared to the operation he ran for six years in favour of the clients.” More…

Daniel’s story 15

Below is an article submitted to SafetyAtWorkBlog as a comment several days ago.  After much deliberation I have decided to publish this as an article for the consideration of readers and in the hope that someone may be willing to provide some practical assistance to Daniel.

Daniel has provided a phone number and email address to SafetyAtWorkBlog.  Please contact the Editor if you are able to help.

“This is my story. I have tried different other government departments last year to get some help all I have got is the runaround so I thought I would try here. I really don’t know how to word this or where to begin so I’ll start from 2003. I was working for a company here in Adelaide for about a year when I had an accident at work, a week later I was put on work cover my boss decided to get rid of me because I was no used to him anymore. I spent the next three years on work cover, setting at home and slowly going crazy I spent most of that three years fighting work cover to get them to do something to get me back to work but nothing ever happened. after losing my family and everything I had while I was on work cover,

“Finally I was offered redemption prayer out. It wasn’t much for the price I had to pay to be left with a permanent disability and plus I was suffering from depression from the time I spent on work cover I lost my identity as a person and felt completely demoralized. And feeling More…

Australian Football’s corporate approach to OHS 1

Recently the CEO of the Australian Football League (AFL), Andrew Demetriou addressed a breakfast gathering in Melbourne on the issue of “OHS in the AFL”.  He spoke almost entirely about policy initiatives without specifically addressing occupational health and safety but after a while we came to understand he was speaking of OHS from his senior executive perspective rather than the level where traditional control measures are implemented.

This was a legitimate approach to OHS but one that is rarely heard, perhaps because the AFL is a unique sporting body.  There was no mention of concepts dear to the hearts of CEOs such as Zero Harm or Safety Culture.  In fact there was hardly even a mention of Leadership.

More…

Insurance company “fire-bomber” dies in custody 13

Almost 12 months ago, Paul Wayne Clarke “loaded a shopping trolley with jerry cans of fuel and set it alight inside a Darwin insurance office, injuring 15 people”.  Clarke died on 21 January 2011 after a failed suicide attempt whilst in custody.

On February 2010 media report provided a few details of Clarke’s circumstances:

“The bomber reportedly goes by the name “Bird” and is a former security guard who worked at a Darwin pub until being injured on the job in October 2007.

He allegedly blamed the insurer for loss of earnings that forced him to leave his three-bedroom home in Humpty Doo and move into a shipping container.”

The incident was enormously traumatic for the 15 staff and customers of the Territory Insurance Office (TIO) who were injured by the incident.

The Coroner will be investigating Clarke’s death but the motivation for Clarke’s initial actions against TIO will remain a mystery.  More…

Powerful short OHS films and long-term safety promotion 1

The Australian OHS regulators struggle each year to make their annual safety week events last beyond the nominated week, the events and the newspaper advertisements.  Queensland’s Workplace Health & Safety (WHSQ) has released two short films focussing on workplace incidents.

The McGuane film provides a chronology of Gavan McGuane going to work for 30 minutes and remaining in hospital with serious facial and eyesight problems for over 50 days. 

There are telling comments from the McGuane family and his doctor about the personal cost of this workplace injury.  More…

Harmonisation strategy will fail and legal costs for OHS will increase Reply

The Australian Government’s plans to harmonise the country’s OHS legislation will fail.  In the Australian newspaper on 6 May 2010 the president of the Safety, Rehabilitation & Compensation Licensees Association, Dean Stone, said

“Harmonisation was aimed at having the same law in force across the country but it is simply not going to be able to do that…  Each of the companies moving back to the harmonised schemes will need more staff merely to comply with the different approaches.” More…

Queensland workers’ compensation reforms – is the good news really that good? 1

Queensland’s Premier, Anna Bligh, and Attorney-General, Cameron Dick have issued a curious media statement concerning their reform of the State’s workers’ compensation system.

The reform is intended “to ensure stability and certainty into the future” and “ensure that the Queensland average premium rate, while increasing, will remain the lowest of any state or territory.”

The Premier is saying the right message but the reality may be a little different.   More…