The best workers’ compensation option is prevention.

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.  The most prudent and sustainable initiative would be to pool WorkCover’s resources with those of SafeWorkSA and coordinate prevention campaigns.  At the moment is seems that the right hand does not do what the left hand is doing in this South Australian government sector.

South Australia’s workcover system appears to be the most reviewed of all State systems but it is important to see these reviews in a national context. In 2010 the Australian government began preliminary consultations with a limited range of stakeholders as part of its National Workers Compensation Action Plan 2010-2013.  This strategy says:

“Workers’ compensation arrangements should be aimed at delivering consistent and improved responses to and management of work related injuries, illnesses and deaths.

Ultimately modifications to arrangements should aim to achieve a reasonable balance between the interests of employers and workers while, at the same time:

a. supporting effective and early return to work

b. providing fair compensation for work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths

c. reducing the overall social and economic costs to the community of work-related injuries, illness and fatalities, and

d. ensuring that employer costs are equitably distributed and contained within reasonable limits.

Currently inconsistent workers’ compensation arrangements across Australia are seen by many to lead to less equitable, effective, efficient, comprehensible and sustainable outcomes for workers and employers.”

If the trend in most Western countries following the global financial crisis is to reduce business costs and red tape, it would seem sensible to begin through better coordination of national and state review processes.  It is reasonable to ask what status the various workers’ compensation review have during this national strategy period?

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

3 thoughts on “The best workers’ compensation option is prevention.”

  1. It is my understanding, under current arrangements, the prevention of injury in the workplace is the preserve of Safework SA and that all of the tens of millions of dollars spent by Workcover over the years supposedly to assist in the prevention of workplace injury and usually delivered at great expense, utilising media and other very remote from workplace initiatives have had very little influence on injury reduction outcomes as a whole.

    I go back to the times of the South Australian Occupational Health and Safety Commission which at great cost delivered almost zero. The demise of that organisation as a result of being called to account for non performance should also be applied to the management of Workcover, the Minister and his department because by all measurements the whole thing is a failure.

    I have written in other posts about the need to have both the injury prevention and injury compensation legislation combined and then there is a true measurement of performance outcomes. Mr. Thomson as head of all aspects of the workplace safety and injury compensation including in house claims management would then be presiding over cause and effect and blame shifting becomes very difficult and implementation of real coal face strategy in injury prevention a major priority rather than rip off the poor injured worker through unconscionable compensation and treatment.

    Rosemary is right on the money when it comes to the \”keen to please\” acolytes they are a huge problem in getting any form of reality happening.

    Delivery of safe work places and fair treatment and compensation to injured workers is the absolute priority and very last should come consideration for employers costs, they can look after their own interests by ensuring the provide safe work places and adequately train and supervise their work force which I am sure would have a very large impact in reducing workplace injuries.

    Any LTI should automatically initiate a work place inspection and report with on the spot fine by way of expiation if non compliance is found and any objection to the fine can be raised through the court system. Watch injuries start to fall as employers particularly micro and small business start to clean their act up.

  2. c. reducing the overall social and economic costs to the community of work-related injuries …

    If I am to understand what Rob Thomson has said and combine that with what we already know about Rosemary\’s work, does that equate to WorkCover SA finally understanding that they have a social responsibility towards all injured workers and should be funding Rosemary\’s efforts to put quality food on to the tables of injured workers?
    Or is that drawing a very long bow or just plain old fashioned wishful thinking on my part.

  3. The very best thing that Mr Thomson CEO of WorkCover SA can do is engage on a primary level with the stakeholders of the workers compensation system within South Australia.
    However Mr Thomson is not doing that, he has taken the \”Sermon from the Mount\” approach.
    His approach has done nothing to engage the stakeholders outside of the \”keen to please\” inner circle.

    Still for now Mr Thomson is the CEO of WorkCover SA, I have no idea as to how long his contract is for or what his plans are post WorkCover.
    What I do know is that Work Injured Resource Connection will still be in place after Mr Thomson has moved on.

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