Online media slams Workcover SA report

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.  Many initiatives can only be understood once deficiencies are identified.  As the report states:

“The purpose of the discussions was to break down the tendency of the various “stakeholders” in the personal injury sector to be limited in their interactions and information flow to those within their particular area of competence and only communicate with other “silos” when the imperatives of regulation or economics demand.”

Some of the positives from the summit, not reported in InDaily, include:

  • “the creation of an accredited qualification for rehabilitation specialists”
  • “a specialty recognition for those General Practitioners who wish to distinguish themselves as having an interest and desire to treat injured people”
  • [delivery of] “high quality education and qualifications for claims managers in South Australia”.

In terms of occupational health and safety, the summit heard these matters, amongst others:

  • “Economics is driving safety
  • Size matters – “one size fits all” benchmarking is inherently flawed. LTIFR is a deceptive measure.
  • The ROI message is not getting out.
  • Mixing of OHS and IR issues presents a continuing issue that is skewing the debate.
  • Education is hugely necessary. Creation of a continuous learning environment. e.g. safety message in the schools
  • There are multiple threads of discussion in OH&S: primary prevention of injuries and minimisation of the impact of those injuries that do occur.  Conversation tends to gravitate to “primary prevention” rather than “impact minimisation” aspect……..
  • Enforcement was necessary, but any enforcement action is a sign of failure of the system in first instance.
  • It would be beneficial for OHS to be connected to the rehabilitation side.  The “front end” must talk to the “back end”.  Claims managers to know what rehabilitationists do and vice versa.”

These sorts of comments are not unfamiliar in workers’ compensation and workplace safety fields in Australia.  The DeakinPrime summit provided an opportunity for stakeholders to express their thoughts in the hope of the creation of some positive solutions.  According to InDaily’s article there were many more negatives than positives but such should be the expectations from a summit.  The more important consideration is how the negative concerns will be addressed by government.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

5 thoughts on “Online media slams Workcover SA report”

  1. At the end of the day, the most important factor under the Act is to ensure that our workers are looked after and confident that they will be safe in their work environments. WorkCover and their board need to focus on delivering a high standard of OHS procedures and monitoring/investigating where need be. And as stated above, they need to ensure that the Rehabilitation process is in connection with the OHS front end. This is common sense and difficult to believe that the people who control the processes in WorkCover do not care about the effect they are bringing on people lives. The privatisation of government departments needs to be legislated to protect the workers and provide the injured workers fairness and a duty of care to be able to continue their life as best they can.

  2. Hi Kevin, much of our legislation, where compliance is mandatory and prescriptive penalties for non compliance are part of that legislation is the direct responsibility of government and is managed by government and subject to audit by the Attorney Generals department at anytime.

    As an example, Safework SA is responsible for the management and application of OHSW legislation in SA and I don\’t see that being privatised anytime soon.

    If we are going to have private enterprise providing workers compensation insurance directly, where compliance with legislation in the provision of that insurance is a requirement, then legislate for oversight by the Attorney Generals department including regular audits. In this scenario there is no place for Workcover, but there is a place for a workers compensation ombudsman with significant powers, particularly those relating to procedural and management fairness to injured workers. On this basis the business should be opened up to all insurance companies who will have to compete for the employers business.

  3. There is just too much to say on the SA Workcover matter, all of it bad.

    The need for the private sector to be involved so government can\’t be directly held to account is the first issue with management of workers compensation.

    If profit is being made by the appointed agent and the delivery of service is diluted to make that profit, how then does this benefit the injured worker and his/her employer in aiding a rapid return to work where medically possible.

    The appalling record of the claims agent and Workcover in handling claims with high turnover of staff and the failure to treat injured workers with dignity and respect is abhorent.

    As I understand it, a review of the workers compensation system has just been completed and due for presentation to parliament now, if not already done. This review should have identified the intolerable situation being imposed on workers through no fault of their own and given that the Unions and many others are demanding change, there should be a rapid winding back of the draconian methods now in play.

    The first thing should be to place all management of claims back into the hands of Workcover directly under the control of the Minister, with a statutory, independent, oversight committee to ensure injured workers have an effective avenue of redress of unfair or harsh treatment by Workcover (an expansion of the powers of the workcover ombudsman past just the legal aspects, including fairness of treatment might do the job). This will clearly show how the system is being managed and if it is fair and effective. This committee should also be a point of reference for Workers Compensation Tribunal Conciliation Officers where those officers have concerns about claims management and treatment of injured workers prior to engagement of lawyers.

    In many cases the resorting to lawyers is counter productive and situations may be best served by experienced advocates (not lawyers) who would look at issues from a practical point of view and be best able to assist the injured worker, the Conciliation Officers and the Statutory Oversight Committee in resolving matters to meet the objective criteria of the Act in a manner that is fair for the injured worker, after all, the worker did not ask to be injured and attended his/her place of work on the day of injury with a not unreasonable expectation that he/she would return to their home safely and uninjured.

    The current pressure on the Claims Agent by Workcover Corporation to reduce cost, which is effectively being done by removing access to certain services including Rehabilitation services amongst others is very telling indeed and would seem to be the push by the recently appointed CEO of Workcover ???

    Jennifer\’s comment is right on the money and our elected representatives should hang their collective heads in shame having allowed this shambles to continue.

    1. Tony, I can\’t see the SA government taking back control of workers\’ compensation. The days of nationalisation are over, more\’s the pity in many circumstances.

      If we accept the death of nationalisation, what controls, monitoring or enforcement do you think can be applied to a private enterprise? Does the Auditor-General have the authority to audit private companies? What performance indicators, qualitative and quantitative, would you apply to the private insurer?

      Parliamentary committees may be applicable but my experience is that such structures report but do not necessarily result in change. Also such committees can be rabid beds of political intrigue so do not provide consistency.

  4. It will be a very brave person within workers compensation who say what they really believe about this Report simply because they all know just what repercussions will be waiting for them.

    On the other hand injured workers always knew what the Deakin Prime Report has found, it is just that SA WorkCover will not listen to what is said to them.

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