WorkHealth raises health awareness but only so far

Last week the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) released a review of the WorkHealth program.  The results are very positive and deserve detailed analysis.  However these analyses do not seem to address all the expectations of the Victorian Government when the program was launched several years ago.

Cover of workhealth_synthesis_reportPremier John Brumby said at the launch of WorkHealth that

“Over time the program is expected to free up $60 million per year in health costs, as well as:

  • Cut the proportion of workers at risk of developing chronic disease by 10 per cent;
  • Cut workplace injuries and disease by 5 per cent, putting downward pressure on premiums;
  • Cut absenteeism by 10 per cent; and
  • Boost productivity by $44 million a year.”

One of the key findings of the research seems to meet two of the program’s aims:

“Modelling of outcome forecast goals for a 10% reduction in absenteeism and a 5% reduction in compensable injury rates are likely to be met, especially as health promotion program uptake increases.” (page 5)

It is reasonable to expect from a 4-5 year study of hundreds of thousands of work health checks that hard data be obtained but as the quote above reveals, the researchers needed to apply modelling and draw on research from other sources. Continue reading “WorkHealth raises health awareness but only so far”

Where to for the “the expensive and failed WorkHealth scheme”?

The Victorian Workcover Authority’s (VWA) WorkHealth program is coming to the end of its five-year life. But what is the way forward?  Has the $A600 million program achieved its aims?

Aims and Results

VWA’s annual report for 2008 (page 33) stated the following aims for WorkHealth, reiterated in the WorkHealth Strategic Framework 2010-12 (page 1):

“Over the long term, the program aims to:

  • cut the proportion of workers at risk of developing chronic disease by 10%
  • cut workplace injuries and disease by 5%, putting downward pressure on premiums
  • cut absenteeism by 10%.

These goals aim to drive productivity and reduce health expenditure that is associated with chronic disease.”

None of VWA’s annual reports since 2008 have included any mention of these benchmarks. Continue reading “Where to for the “the expensive and failed WorkHealth scheme”?”

Flogging a dead horse when it is still alive, though looking poorly

In The Australian newspaper on 24 November 2012, columnist Judith Sloan discussed how the harmonisation of Australia’s occupational health and safety laws are

“a present glaring example of a despot stripped bare…”

Earlier this year, in April, Sloan said harmonisation was dead so one could say she is flogging a dead horse. Some parts of her November article (only available online via subscription) do not seem to be supported by evidence and her terminology occasionally indicates a lack of understanding of occupational health and safety matters.

Sloan rehashes some of the April 2012 article including the image of crying public servants but gives prominence to the inconvenience to some companies under the Comcare scheme. Several years ago some national companies opted out of State-based OHS and workers’ compensation schemes in order to join the only national safety scheme that was available at the time. Part of the reason for this move was that it provided national coverage for national businesses. Some complained because Comcare was seen as having a much smaller enforcement team and that the OHS laws were, somehow, less than in many of the States. This option was provided under a Conservative Government to assist business. The same government instigated the OHS harmonisation process.

Continue reading “Flogging a dead horse when it is still alive, though looking poorly”

Election failure, missed opportunities on bullying

Within the last week, Victoria’s State Premier, John Brumby, lost an election allowing the conservative parties in the Australian State to gain power, narrowly, after over a decade in isolation.  Election pledges are now only of historic interest but let’s look at a couple.

The crime of workplace bullying

According to the Australian Financial Review on 2 November 2010 (not available without subscription), John Brumby pledged to have a legal review into the “creation of the offence of bullying under the Crimes Act”.  The Victorian Chamber of Commerce & Industry‘s (VECCI) Steven Wojtkiw opposed the pledge because existing OHS laws were sufficient.  Taking the election context away for a moment indicates a  challenge for those anti-bullying advocates.  Wojtkiw is quoted as saying

“To introduce a greater level of legislative prescription in the area may only add to the increasing complexities already being confronted by employers in managing a modern workplace.”

It could be argued that if industry had already introduced an appropriate approach to reducing the likelihood of bullying in the workplace John Brumby would never have felt the need to make such a pledge.  In many cases, anti-regulation laissez-faire business lobbyists could reduce the “insidious elements of the nanny state” by doing right by their workforce in the first place.

Bullying and harmonisation

Michael Tooma of Norton Rose is quoted in the same article but Tooma uses Brumby’s pledge as an example of another but different nail in the coffin of Federal OHS reform.   Continue reading “Election failure, missed opportunities on bullying”

Codes and Regulations prioritized in Australia’s harmonisation process

When the Australian Government began the process of reviewing OHS laws in order to achieve harmonisation, there was a fairly tight schedule for these reforms.  Draft OHS codes of practice and regulations were due in the second half of 2010.  The last public statement on these public comment documents was that drafts were due for release at the end of October.  The latest rumour is that some of the documents will be out around November 10.

It has been mentioned elsewhere that Safe Work Australia has missed a major public relations opportunity by not getting documents ready for release in its Safe Work Australia Week in late October, for it is guaranteed that all State OHS regulators will be badgered about the draft documents as Safe Work Australia Week events.

Codes

SafetyAtWorkBlog has learnt that many of the codes of practice and occupational health issues have been prioritized.  “Priority Codes” will include:

Workplace bullying awareness increases in Australia

A reader has advised that there has been an increase in calls to WorkCover NSW concerning workplace bullying, following the sentencing of four men earlier this week in Victoria.

WorkSafe Victoria has confirmed that its advisory service is receiving 30 calls a day on the issue where the regular rate was 10.  WorkSafe also says that the calls are taking longer than regular OHS calls.  This is to be expected when dealing with psychosocial hazards.  Also, if callers are not up-to-date on the OHS criteria for bullying, it may take additional time for inspectors on the advisory line to discuss the matter. Continue reading “Workplace bullying awareness increases in Australia”