Differentiate the WorkCover and WorkSafe brands

Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog wrote:

“In many industries, and in the safety profession itself, people confuse the OHS laws of injury prevention with the Compensation laws of rehabilitation.”

This misunderstanding also extends to the public.  Every so often, this blog receives comments from irate readers who express their frustration with “WorkSafe” or “Workcover”.  It is a frustration that is shared by many but the frustration is frequently aimed at the wrong target.  Most of the frustration stems from real or perceived injustice in the workers compensation system, but the criticism refers repeatedly to the OHS prevention and enforcement authority.

This confusion is not helped when one “brand” is used for both injury prevention and injury compensation.

Several Australian States have the two workplace safety programs under a single banner but the legislation is different for each program, the managerial approach is different for both and the supportive professions have very different strategies.

Rather than continuing with awareness-raising advertising, OHS and workers compensation regulators could begin a brand differentiation campaign.  It is doubtful such a campaign would reduce the outrage that many feel but it would focus the outrage on the source of frustration – workers compensation and insurance – and allow the OHS prevention and enforcement strategy to operate in a situation where its role is clearly understood by business and the community.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

9 thoughts on “Differentiate the WorkCover and WorkSafe brands”

  1. @Louisa – Whilst I agree with you, it is a no fault system. This means unless the worker wrote a suicide note, signed a contract, told his mate about it, gathered everyone around and filmed it, THEN put his hand in the machine, it is still compensable. This is what annoys employers who then have to pay for it.

  2. Hi Louisa, I believe employers do have a role to play in protecting ageing workers from being injured by their work tasks.
    A significant difference between the ‘condition’ being aggravated on the job vs being aggravated in a social setting is that the worker rarely has the ‘power’ to not undertake the activity in the workplace. And hence th employer should take some responsibliliyfor the costs associated with asking a person to do a job that they are not physically or psychologically capable of performing.
    In the main so many employers have become so afraid of ‘discrimination’ charges that they fail to see that it is not discriminatory to ensure a worker’s safety by modifying their work tasks, or even withdrawing work if it cannot be made safe for the worker.
    Employers who do their recruitment and selection of workers correctly include a ‘functional assessment’ (not a general medical examination) of a candidate’s physical and psychological capacity to perform in a given job on offer.
    Unfortunatley fewer employers include ongoing ‘functional assessments’ to ensure that the candidate continues to be capable.
    The primary reason for not undertaking these assessments is that they cost – time to prepare the job dictionary, time to allow the worker to go for the assessmetn and the dollars associated with the cost of service providers.
    However, when do they adequately asses the cost of NOT doing the assessments?.

  3. Peter Robinson, in response to your comment “If WC and Rehab are required the OHS management system has failed, it’s no longer an OHS issue”, I totally disagree. The present WorkCover system is inextricably tied to workplace OH&S, and if the two were seen as co-existing it would be a lot easier to manage.

    Where there is worker negligence there should be a penalty to the worker by way of no compensation. Very few tasks can be made so failsafe that an employer and his workforce can be completely protected against stupidity.

    There is also, unfortunately, a growing trend in WorkCover to compensate for “aggravation of pre-existing age-related conditions”, many of which are not in any way related to “safe work places”. How can you make the workplace “safe” for, say, a 60 year old with an age-related condition who just happens to aggravate it at work, rather than at home or at the supermarket or out fishing – doing nothing more than the same tasks s/he does every day as part of his/her role?

    There are an awful lot of good employers out there, sometimes circumstances get in the way. Don’t tar them all with the same “bad guy” brush.

  4. One federal authority to cover prevention and compensation might get the job done. The current debacle of systems hasn’t been able to make any discernible headway in in the last four or so decades.

    The mixed salad of statistics and a few hundred conferences along with a squillion reports certainly has not really had an impact.

    At the end of the road are the injured pretty much left to their own devices to try and make something out of their diminished lives with those responsible for delivery of safe workplaces having more talk fests and delivering not very much at all.

    I think the result of the try at harmonisation really caps off the totally inadequate and inept authorities we have placed in charge of our workers safety.

    Both prevention and compensation must be managed by government to ensure accountability and performance remains open to public scrutiny. There is no place for private enterprise involvement in claims management or enforcement of legislation.

    Entirely independent Statutory Authorities must be the only operators with clear and frequent public reporting.

    Common law access for injured workers in cases of gross negligence by employers or others should also be made available immediately. This will focus attention on prevention very sharply.

  5. I don’t believe in Workcover or worksafe. when the worksafe inspectors try to turn the story and cover up the story Is their any way the injured person get componsated for their injury? It is all politics. It is all depends on the person who is conducting the investigation. My question here is there any deparment to investigate the unsatisfied claims or Is there anyone taking a survey of the number of complaints received or what is the ratio of these complaints dealt with the complaintant’s satisfaction? No. Hopeless system

    1. Each Australian State has an Office of the Auditor-General, or equivalent, that assesses the performance of all government departments and authorities. The reports are usually publicly available.

      WorkSafe Victoria, and I think also in the new Work Helth and Safety Act, has mechanisms for the appeal of any inspectorate decisions in the workplace. It is possible to ask for a review of the enforcement action. Statistics of these reviews are available in the Annual Reports of the Victorian WorkCover Authority and may also be on the WorkSafe website.

      I don’t think the system is hopeless but will admit that effective change cannot succeed without considering the political context of that change.

  6. Barry, I don’t believe one is more important than the other although, as a safety professional, I am much more comfortable in preventing injuries than rehabilitation.

    It is understandable for emergency services, and others, to use WorkCover as, in Victoria, the Victorian Workcover Authority has two “brands” that correspond to their areas of operation and legislative obligations – WorkSafe and Workcover. The emergency services and unions are correct in using a shortened term for the Authority but this illustrates a further source of confusion.

    If I was in a position to harmonise the OHS authorities in Australia I would probably go for SafeWork as has occurred in SafeWork SA (in South Australia) and with Safe Work Australia. The term “SafeWork” indicates its purpose and allows for State names as suffixes.

    The workers compensation agencies could equally be rebadged WorkCover …. with Workcover NSW as an example.

    If the WHS laws are to be harmonised, it is logical for the regulatory bodies of those new laws to be similarly harmonised. Those bodies will scream and resist because of their long-held brand building but new harmonised laws and harmonised enforcement strategies could call for new harmonised names.

  7. …or the states could just be consistent…some states are Workcover, some are WorkSafe and then there’s the annoying Safe Work Australia and Comcare just to add to the confusion! In Victoria where it was Workcover for many years the differentiation began more than a decade ago, to put more emphasis on safety, however WorkCover is still often used by emergency services, unions when they comment on accidents. Ultimately the safety brand should be the dominant one. If people don’t get hurt, they won’t need the Cover, but the compo culture is alive and well so it will be a long time before that one is sorted out.

  8. Agreed, they are not the same and the deliniation should be clear to everyone.
    In the workplace I don’t want to get involved in WC and Rehab. Don’t get me wrong, compensation and especially getting a person back to work is important, but I don’t want to administer it. If WC and Rehab are required the OHS management system has failed, it’s no longer an OHS issue. WorkComp/Rehab has been made complex and is now a specialist field. I’d rather put my efforts into preventing a reoccurence.

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