School principals seek solutions to workplace stress 3

Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog reported on stress issues in Tasmanian teachers.  Victorian data has been revealed of stress in the education profession through The Age newspaperr on 6 July 2010.   Apparently stress claims for school principals have cost $A2.4 million since 2005.

One principal said the claims are likely to be under-reported as a stress claim can kill one’s career.

For the purposes of this blog, control measures or causes need to be identified.  The Age article said that principals have asked the Education Department to consider the following issues.  It is reasonable to assume that these have been identified by the principals as contributory factors to workplace stress. More…

Social change through worker dignity 2

The need for food parcels for those on workers’ compensation seems to continue in South Australia according to a 3 July 2010 report in Adelaide Advertiser.  SafetyAtWorkBlog mentioned the service being offered by Rosemary Mackenzie-Ferguson and others in March 2010.

There are many areas of society that are supported by privately provided social services and this situation is likely to persist but just as soup kitchens illustrate a problem of poverty, so the food service mentioned above indicates a problem with workers’ compensation.

As each Australian state reviews its workers’ compensation laws ahead of a national harmonisation, it seems absurd to focus on the laws but not on the social impacts of those laws.  It is common to refer to a “whole-of-government” approach to issues but “whole-of-society” seems to be a slower concept to embrace.

Much is being made in Australia’s OHS harmonisation process of the need to look at the enforcement policies that support new legislation.  There is also a (flawed) reliance on Courts to provide clarity to the legislation rather than producing clear laws in the first place.  But rarely does government look beyond the law, the Courts, or the enforcement policies to assess the potentially negative social impacts of the OHS and workers’ compensation laws. More…

Comcare at Senate Estimates – enforcement performance indicators 1

Comcare is often seen as a minor player in OHS regulation in Australia because, although it has national coverage, it limits its OHS and workers’ compensation activities to specific industrial and public service sectors.  Although it is limited, it has a monopoly in those sectors and is powerful.  Its role in Australia’s harmonisation program seems to be just another OHS regulator but it has a unique role and structure.

Recently, Comcare’s CEO, Paul O’Connor, and Deputy CEO, Steve Kibble, addressed the Australian Senate’s Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee in the annual Estimates hearings.  Hansard reports Kibble’s comments (around page 32) on the enforcement activity of Comcare:

“Comcare has initiated 16 civil court proceedings in relation to alleged breaches of the OHS Act since 2004…..

Recent prosecutions include a matter in relation to a federal agent of the Australian Federal Police for a breach of his individual duties of care.   More…

OHS regulator reveals a blog about OHS fraud and crime Reply

Spying on people can be entertaining as can be shown by the popularity of hidden camera video on tabloid news shows but there is always a whiff of unfairness and distaste about the practice.

For the last couple of months, Washington State’s Department of Labour & Industries has been running a blog written by its Fraud Prevention and Compliance Manager, Carl Hammersburg.  The blog matches the remit of the regulatory authority and covers a range of industrial enforcement actions.  Occasionally it has included its own video surveillance  of potential workers’ compensation fraudsters.

On 28 April 2010, the blog,called “Nailed“, included video of  Frankie Day who, as a resulted on the L&I investigation, was found guilty of theft and then jailed. More…

What can OHS professionals learn from government program failures? 1

Marcus Priest of the Australia Financial Review wrote a good article on 2 June 2010 (only available through subscription or hard copy) that illustrates the managerial deficiencies of the Australian Government by looking at the lessons from two governmental investigation reports concerning a large-scale construction program for existing schools and the home insulation scheme.  Priest identifies several issues that should be noted by those who are designing large projects and who need to deal with the government directly

Priest’s opening paragraph is:

“The decisions by the Rudd government to try pull (sic) the country out of a recession by spending billions on schools and free home roofing insulation have come to be regarded as worthy ideas that morphed into a disaster of public administration.”

Marcus says that these reports show an overworked public service, unreasonable government expectations, a disconnection between policy and its real-world application and poor assumptions. 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…

Safety professionals must understand RTW in order to avoid unnecessary costs 5

The rationale for the Australian government’s evangelism of harmonisation is the reduction of “red-tape” on the logic, or assumption, that business costs will also be reduced.  Dr Mary Wyatt, according to a report on ABC News Online, says that cost reductions may be possible be reducing over-servicing of injured workers.

Dr Wyatt says:

“We have an increasing focus on the medicine, and we have lots of scans that tell us there are things wrong with our bodies, and then when those scans are done it’s often labelled as a serious problem, and then the worker gets worried and we often go off on a tangent..” More…

Insider’s perspective on workers’ compensation harmony process 1

Dr Mary Wyatt is an expert on the return-to-work sector in Australia.  She was one of several expert speakers at the harmonisation conference in Melbourne at the end of March 2010.  Her presentation is available online.

Dr Wyatt spoke from a national perspective and has said:

“The data we have tells us compensation system (sic) are not producing good results. Employees with a compensable condition have poorer outcomes than those who have the same condition in a non compensation situation. For example, those who have surgery have four times the odds of a poor outcome when the condition is compensable.” More…

Minister says public service safety performance is lamentable Reply

“….I would ….suggest that government (as employer and dutyholder, and as policy maker) can, and should, be an exemplar of OHS best practice.  By taking the lead in the systematic management of occupational health and safety, government can influence the behaviour of individuals and firms upon whom duties are imposed by the OHS legislation.”

In 2004, Chris Maxwell QC wrote the above words in his review of the OHS legislation in Victoria. According to a report in the Australian Financial Review (only available by subscription or hard copy) on 6 April 2010, the Minister for WorkCover, Tim Holding, seems to share some of Maxwell’s view.   Holding is reported to have said in a speech that

“The truth is that the performance of workplace safety in the Victorian public service continues to be lamentable More…

Employees’ OHS responsibility and working beyond the maximum hours 3

One of the most powerful motivators for behavioural change in workplaces is the legislative obligation on employees to not put themselves at risk of injury nor to act in such a way as to place others at risk.

Reported in the Australian media on 31 March 2010, Fair Work Australia has ruled that employees in the fruit-picking industry may volunteer for work beyond the standard 38-hour week without receiving penalty rates or overtime.  The union movement is understandably concerned about how this financially disadvantages workers and how this ruling may spread beyond the fruit-picking industry.

The ruling allows fruit-pickers to choose to work beyond their regular shifts.  Will they be able to work safely?  Will they not be fatigued?  Will they have sufficient daylight to undertake the tasks safely?  Will there be sufficient downtime for workers to recover from a long work day and be fit for work?  Could the workers’ choice to undertake additional fruit-picking tasks be a breach of their OHS obligations to look after their own safety, health and welfare?

The employees may choose to ignore their own occupational health for the sake of additional dollars but should they then be eligible for workers’ compensation if the effects of those longer hours are found to have contributed to an injury or illness? More…