The European experience with economic incentives for OHS improvements 1

Last decade the New South Wales government operated a “premium discount scheme” intended to reinvest workers’ compensation funds into preventative safety measures and programs.  Other OHS jurisdictions had a similar authority but chose not to apply it.  Since then economic safety incentives have not been on the political agenda. 

However this is not the case in other parts of the world.  In 2010, the European Agency of Safety and Health at Work undertook a review of economic incentives (“Economic incentives to improve occupational safety and health: a review from the European perspective”).  Those findings may be worth considering in light of some of the political changes on incentives in other areas of public policy, such as carbon taxes.

From outside the European Union, the comparative charts of member schemes are of less interest than the literature review and report conclusions.  The incentives that the report says have some positive benefits include

  • The simple introduction of new OHS rules (good news for Australia)
  • Taxes (although the impact is limited) More…

Targeting the most dangerous industries but not those with the most deaths 5

On 4 July 2011, WorkSafe Victoria released a media notice entitled “WorkSafe to target state’s most dangerous industries“.  (The title of the media release currently available on-line has been changed from “dangerous” to “risky”.)  Below are the industries that WorkSafe considers the most dangerous:

  • Food manufacturing and processing,
  • wood product manufacturing,
  • fabricated metal,
  • transport equipment manufacturing,
  • plastics and rubber manufacturing,
  • road transport,
  • warehousing and storage and
  • residential aged care services.

WorkSafe advised SafetyAtWorkBlog on 4 July, that these eight industries were chosen as the targets for an OHS enforcement blitz because in 2010 these sectors generated 7,075 workers’ compensation claims.  2,808 of the claims related to manual handling injuries. More…

The best workers’ compensation option is prevention. 3

The CEO of South Australia’s WorkCover Corporation, Rob Thomson, has participated in a long interview with the online newspaper inDaily on 1 June 2011.  In the article Thomson addresses many of the recent criticisms of his organisation and the sole WorkCover agent, Employers Mutual Limited, but a telling OHS comment occurs in the last couple of paragraphs of the article:

“He took a simplistic approach to changing the culture and performance of the corporation, he said.
“What I am really trying to say is you need to get the right medical treatment and support for people if they are injured, and the best option is prevention.
“To me prevention is ultimately what this is all about. The fewer claims there are, the better it is for the employer, the worker, the rest of society.”

It is very positive that a CEO emphasises the importance of preventing injuries and it will be very interesting to watch the prevention initiatives that the WorkCover Corporation instigates.  It is hoped that Rob Thomson is not thinking about the Commercial Kitchens Campaign that he recently launched.  More…

New South Wales gets a win-win on OHS laws 2

The Australian Government must be either issuing a sigh of relief or clapping their hands together following the passing of the model OHS laws by the New South Wales (NSW) government last week.

NSW was a belligerent signatory to the agreement for nationally harmonised OHS laws but the laws passed with sufficient tweaking to make the laws compatible with the national model laws.  Several days later, on 30 May 2011, everyone is claiming a win.  Unions retain some authority to prosecute over OHS breaches, although only “for the third and least serious category of offence”, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon is reported as saying that the NSW upper house of Parliament has protected an important safeguard for workers.

On 27 May 2011 Lennon was bemoaning “that the Industrial Court has lost most of its occupational health and safety jurisdiction” and yet the Industrial Relations Commission will now retain an active OHS role even though it is dealing with lesser OHS offences, similar to the unions’ role above.

Overall the amendments in the NSW Parliament seem to be a face-saving exercise for the left-wing politicians and trade union movement.  They were provided with little wins but have given way on the major objections.  It is reasonable to describe this as a pragmatic solution given that the March 2011 NSW election effectively removed the union movement’s power base in that State. 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…

Online media slams Workcover SA report 5

Online newspaper, Indaily, has released a report by DeakinPrime which summarises a November 2010 summit conference on workers compensation.  DeakinPrime facilitated the summit

InDaily focuses on the following criticisms, amongst others, from the report:

  • a silo approach by Workcover
  • the lack of feedback
  • injured workers were not the prime consideration of Workcover
  • politicisation was leading to instability
  • a disassociated claims management process.

These criticisms are present in the full report  but the presence of criticisms should not surprise as the nature of these summits are usually twofold – the creation of innovative solutions and an avenue for complaint.  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 17

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…

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…

Mental health research broadens the workplace context Reply

Professor Tony LaMontagne is an Australian researcher and academic whose work always deserves careful consideration.  LaMontagne has been mentioned several times in SafetyAtWorkBlog.  The significance of his work is that it is not centred on occupational health and safety but has a major relevance nevertheless.

On the eve of Victoria’s Mental Health Week, LaMontagne has released a report, co-authored with Dr Kristy Sanderson, entitled “Estimating the economic benefits of eliminating job strain as a risk factor for depression”.  A more detailed article on the report will be on this blog in the next few days but there are a couple of notable points in the research.  Firstly, the study places job strain in the broader social context and not limited to the workplace, workers’ compensation, wellness or OHS. In this way, he is promoting a social agenda that has great potential. More…