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…

The first workers’ compensation harmonisation meeting a sham: unions 7

“The conference inside is a bit of a sham” claimed Brian Boyd, Victorian Trades Hall Secretary at the first meeting into the harmonisation of Australia’s workers compensation laws.

“It’s really another hidden agenda about trying to harmonise workers comp after we fully know already, they’ve messed up harmonisation of OHS.”

More…

OHS awards consider work/life balance but not vice versa 1

On 15 March 2010, the Australian Government congratulated the winners of, and participants in, the 2009–10 National Work–Life Balance Awards.

According to a media release from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations:

“The Awards…. recognise family friendly practices like flexible working hours, options for working from home, paid parental leave, job sharing, onsite carer’s facilities and study assistance.”
Teleworking and flexible working hours are both directly relevant to occupational health safety but also through the OHS elements of work/life balance.  But the National Work-Life Balance Awards Team told SafetyAtWorkBlog that
“No direct OHS performance indicators were included in the judging criteria for the 2009-10 National Work-LIfe Balance Awards.” More…

Prominent OHS lawyer to facilitate workers’ compensation reform discussions 2

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been able to confirm the rumour that Barry Sherriff, a prominent Australian OHS Lawyer who recently joined Norton Rose, has been contracted to facilitate a series of exclusive forums on the reform of Australia’s workers’ compensation system.

Sherriff was one of the triumvirate who investigated a model OHS law for the Australian Government and should fulfill his contracted role for Safe Work Australia (SWA) admirably. More…

LTIFRs (sort of) gone from Australia Post Reply

The Communications Division of the CEPU has been in negotiations with Australia Post for some time to establish a pathway to better industrial relations.  On 18 March 2010 a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the two parties, committing both to progress.

Of direct OHS interest is the following paragraph in the media statement about the MOU:

“As a gesture of good faith the MOU contains commitments from all parties that will apply immediately:

  • Australia Post will host a summit in April between senior executives including the Managing Director and senior CEPU representatives on the future challenges facing the business, the unions and their members; and
  • The removal of Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate’s in bonus targets for managers.”

Whether OHS will be discussed at the summit is unknown but the removal of LTIFR is of significance to OHS professionals.

More…

Harmonisation of Australia’s workers’ compensation system begins 5

SafetyAtWorkBlog has learnt that the national harmonisation process for workers’ compensation has formally begun with one of the first meetings being scheduled in Melbourne at the end of March 2010 and organised by Safe Work Australia.  The two-day meeting is invitation only and invitations have been sent to relevant stakeholders – insurers, rehabilitation, providers, unions…… The meeting is almost an introduction to the reform process but could provide a clear indication of the tensions and challenges for this program in the future.

Workers compensation issues in South Australia have been receiving considerable coverage in SafetyAtWorkBlog over the last few weeks.  The bigger picture in the complaints that the Australian Government has committed to a program of national harmonisation of workers’ compensation schemes, currently administered separate by each State.  This process is a bigger challenge than harmonising workplace safety laws and may be bigger than the reintroduction of a more worker-friendly industrial relations system.

The ABC News bulletin (video available) in Melbourne on 17 March 2010 ran a lead story about doctors’ reluctance to treat injured workers More…

Public sector union capitalises on WorkSafe bullying campaign Reply

Through March 2010, WorkSafe Victoria is running a series of seminars on the issue of workplace bullying throughout Victoria.  In support of the campaign, the OHS regulator has a series of ads in the newspapers (pictured below left)

Cheekily the Community & Public Sector Union has “piggybacked” on the promotional campaign emphasising that the Victorian Government is changing the law to make it more difficult to claim workers’ compensation More…

How the treatment of traumatic brain injuries has changed and the positive role of workers’ compensation 4

An American workers’ compensation blog, Workers Comp Insider, posted a fascinating article on the workplace-related traumatic brain injuries.  The article discusses a new research paper by Peter Rousmaniere - “Gray Matters: The Employer’s Role in Brain Injury Recovery”.

The original article in Risk Management magazine is also a good example of clear writing on  a complex matter.

Clearly, workers who receive a severe brain injury should not be shuffled away into the Never-Never as is traditional.  There are counselling and rehabilitation techniques available that have originated from many sources, including contemporary wars. More…

Legal changes for Victoria’s workers’ compensation laws 1

As workers’ compensation keeps bubbling away as a political issues in South Australia ahead of this weekend’s State election, other Australian States are not sitting still on workers’ compensation.

Amendments to Victoria’s workers’ compensation system have passed through Parliament on 11 March 2010 enacting most of the findings of the 2007 Hanks inquiry.  The laws will be gradually introduced but with most effective from 5 April 2010.

The best summary of the amended laws is on the Victorian WorkCover website. More…

Workers’ compensation forum online – excerpt 5

On 4 March 2010, the Work Injured Resource Connection conducted a forum in South Australia.  Several politicians who have expressed an interest or have an active interest in workers’ compensation were present.

Part of the forum has been uploaded on Youtube and is included below.  The speaker in this video, Robert Brokenshire, represents the Family First party in the South Australian Parliament.  Much of this part of his presentation reflects public statements that Brokenshire and others have made in relation to the State’s workers’ compensation system. More…