Firefighting, WorkCover and OHS

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia – 2011 July 10: Fire fighters supporting colleague on roof gaining access to a garage on fire in an residential area.

Some years ago there was a rumour that no workers’ compensation claims by firefighters employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) were investigated and/or rejected by the MFB. The reason was that the United Firefighters’ Union would question any investigation on behalf of its members which would likely result in increased industrial relations tension.

Workers compensation data obtained by SafetyAtWorkBlog from the MFB under Freedom of Information seems to have scotched that rumour but does provide some interesting information which may also justify radical workplace health and safety thinking for this sector.

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Is workers’ compensation less important than other insurances?

In late July 2018, the Victorian Auditor-General Office (VAGO) released a report into the insurance risks of several Victorian local councils.  It is reasonable to expect the costs of workers’ compensation insurance to be addressed in the report but this was not the case.  Although it is clearly an insurance product, the Auditor-General excluded workers’ compensation insurance.  This position continues to sideline workers’ compensation implying to Victorian Councils, if not businesses, that it is less important than other business insurances.

The best example of this implication is found on page 48 of the report in a graph

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Families of the Dead speak to government

Last time we looked at the Australian Senate Inquiry into “The framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia“, various submissions were considered.  The Inquiry is continuing to hold public hearings, the most recent of these provided an opportunity for relatives of deceased workers to present their arguments.  It is an enlightening insight into a pain that few of us will face but also into the struggles of many to effectively enforce workplace health and safety with, and without, Industrial Manslaughter laws.

The first couple at the 17 July 2018 hearing was Michael and Lee Garrels, the parents of 20-year-old 

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What Boland’s Independent Review has been hearing

On July 19 2018, Marie Boland, who is conducting an independent review into Australia’s work health and safety (WHS) laws, spoke at the Closing The Loop conference, hosted by the Self Insurers of South Australia (SISA).   Boland’s inquiry has been a little quiet as it undertakes its consultation and investigation but Boland provided some insight at the SISA conference.

According to Boland’s presentation (not available online),

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A WorkCover book that works

Many consultants publish books on the understanding that a published work provides legitimacy and authority to their advice.  Sometimes these books are vanity productions but increasingly, and particularly in the safety sector, small-run publications are appearing that are well-written, well-edited and well worth reading.  The latest of these, in Australia at least, is “Workcover That Works” by Mark Stipic.

Stipic has been planning this book for some time and developed a clear strategy for this book to address the workers compensation processes in just one Australian State – Victoria.  It is not a workplace safety book but it acknowledges the role of occupational health and safety (OHS) and devotes one of its four parts to “Foundations of Success” in which Stipic discusses safety climate and culture and those management practices that minimise the likelihood of a workers compensation claim being lodged.  Continue reading “A WorkCover book that works”

OHS outcomes of ACTU Congress 2018

Below is the list of occupational health and safety (OHS) issues for the next three years, put to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and passed, at its Congress on 18 July 2018.  Some were expected but others will cause concern, primarily, for business owners.  Perhaps the major concern is that these commitments are to be rolled out nationally.

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Talking about OHS could remove the need for Industrial Manslaughter laws

Gaby Grammeno has been writing about workplace health and safety (WHS) issues for longer than I have.  Her work for Workplace OHS, a subscription OHS news service, includes an “ask an expert” service and her latest is a comparison between the OHS/WHS laws involving “reckless endangerment” and “industrial manslaughter”.

The article is of interest to OHS people and reinforces some of the legal opinions on the proposed introduction of industrial manslaughter laws in Victoria.  There is disparity in sentencing and financial penalties in Queensland laws compared to potential Victorian ones and one includes “serious injuries” where the other addresses deaths.  But the issue of penalty sizes is a sideshow to the intended purpose of these types of laws – deterrence.

Will a penalty of A$3.8 million have a greater deterrent effect than A$3.1 million? 

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