“exponential increase in mental injuries in the workplace” and other statements in a Victorian Parliament committee

Three years ago, WorkSafe Victoria indicated that it would consider prosecuting farmers for breaches of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws. That possibility seems to have disappeared based on the latest Minister for Workplace Safety’s appearance at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC).

Ingrid Stitt‘s appearance centred on questions related to the 2020-21 Budget Estimates and touched on Industrial Manslaughter, gig workers, mental health, and construction and farm safety.

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Annual Reports are not as transparent on OHS performance as they could be

Around four or five years ago, occupational health and safety (OHS) reporting in Corporate Annual Reports was a hot topic as Australian research had indicated that Annual Reports were not revealing sufficient, or useful, OHS data. Also awards were being presented for the best OHS reporting in Annual Reports. SafetyAtWorkBlog has looked at a sample of the reports released by the Victorian Government over the last fortnight to see what OHS information is available.

Two major keywords were used to search the Annual Reports – “Safe” and “Well”. These words form the stemS of other search terms such as “safety” and “wellbeing” or “wellness”. Each of the word responses were looked at for a focus on workplace or work-related activity. Although public safety may have an increasing OHS context, public safety, and a range of other “safeties”, were not included.

Some Annual Reports were okay, others? Egh! But what is clear is that there is no excuse.

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Robbing Peter to pay Paul – the “WorkSafe Tax” is challenged

More details of the “WorkSafe Tax” and WorkSafe Victoria’s new infringement notices and specialist construction inspectors emerged with the appearance of the Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing on June 14 2019.

Liberal Member of Parliament, Richard Riordan went to town on the Minister. He opened with this question:

“….I refer to budget paper 5, page 23, which shows you are ripping $700 million out of the WorkCover Authority over the forward estimates. How does taking such a massive dividend tax to the government help workplace safety?”

page 5, Verified Transcript

But this issue has been bubbling along since at least 2011 when the now Premier, Daniel Andrews, vehemently opposed it.

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New OHS infringement notices for WorkSafe Victoria, according to Budget Papers

The Victorian Government released its State Budget on May 27, 2019. The Budget Papers include some references to occupational health and safety (OHS).

Infringement Notices

The Budget Papers state that new infringement notices will be available for WorkSafe Victoria to use.

“Workplace safety will be improved through the introduction of infringement notices for a range of occupational health and safety offences, adding to the suite of compliance and enforcement tools available to WorkSafe Victoria.”

page 88 – Budget Paper 3 – Service Delivery
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What is the “All Victorians Infrastructure Fund”?

ON 22 November 2018, two days before the State Election, the Secretary of the Department of Treasury and Finance released a document called the “Release of costing of election commitment“.  Most of the media attention was on the removal of a self-imposed “debt cap” by Treasurer, Tim Pallas, but there is an interesting footnote that seems to involve using some of WorkSafe Victoria’s premium income as a dividend to fund infrastructure.

Attachment A – “Summary of Labor’s 2018 Election Commitments” – lists the following table (figures are in millions):

Footnote 3 says:

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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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