Earlier this year, the Victorian Premier, John Brumby, announced a workplace program called WorkHealth. This illness prevention program is to be funded from WorkCover premium income and will focus on combatting health issues such as diabetes, cholesterol and obesity.
The rationale for the program is that poor health is contributing to workplace injuries and impeding rehabilitation.
There are several odd elements about the program. Firstly, its introduction was announced without WorkSafe Victoria’s knowledge, even the program is to be administered through that agency.
Secondly, the trade union movement was not involved in the program development. I am often critical of trade union influence being beyond its real level of support (look at New South Wales politics to see the complexities of this) but in any OHS program it is necessary to prepare the ground. The Victorian government did not do this, for whatever reason, so now should not be surprised if the program comes under suspicion and the unions are hesitant to support.
WorkHealth is an odd mix of public health promotion and workplace health reaction. There is support for such an approach from European initiatives and some Australian States are broadening OHS. But in both these circumstances, the programs are developed through traditional structures ensuring participation and “ownership”.
What is most interesting is that at a recent WorkSafe-sponsored OHS conference in Melbourne, John Merritt, Executive Director of WorkSafe made no mention of this three-month-old $600 million government program even though he was talking about future WorkSafe initiatives. He showed a new TV ad. He spoke about increased toughness on enforcement. But he did not mention WorkHealth.
4 thoughts on “WorkSafe and (maybe) WorkHealth”
Kevin, a few clarifications are needed re this piece:
-WorkHealth is being funded out of a $600 million return on investment fund which has been set aside from WorkSafe Victoria’s surplus funds.
-$218 million from within this fund has been allocated to the WorkHealth initiative over the next five years.
-The initiative was announced on 18 March, and is just over 2 months old.
-WorkSafe Victoria was very much involved in the development of WorkHealth. The initiative was endorsed by the board prior to its announcement. A considerable amount of work was done thin WorkSafe up to that point.
-WorkHealth is voluntary.
-WorkHealth will leverage off best practice health and wellbeing initiatives.
-Victoria’s Accident Compensation Act and workplace safety legislation enable the promotion of health, safety and welfare of people at work.
– Our work continues
I’m with Kevin on this one. The WorkHealth initiative sounds like a goody, but agree with him that big safety programs need have to be put together so that all key groups can contribute to the shape of it. It might have happened in this instance, but it doesn’t look that way.
Seems like a sensible thing for the Victorian government to do.Cannot understand why you are getting excited about it