No fanfare for Victoria’s workers’ compensation review

This week the Victorian Government released Peter Rozen‘s report called Improving the experience of injured workers: A review of WorkSafe Victoria’s management of complex workers’ compensation claims. The public release has been long anticipated as it has been sitting with the Minister for Workplace Safety, Ingrid Stitt, since April 2021.

The Review was forced on the Government after the second damning report on WorkSafe Victoria’s performance from Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass. In some ways, Rozen’s report can be seen as the third report into the Victorian workers’ compensation scheme.

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Workplace bullying in politics

Workplace Bullying is once again in the headlines and once again related to politicians and the stress they face.  Two cases in particular are the focus. One in Victoria involving Kaushaliya Vaghela who resigned from the Australian Labor Party after revealing accusations of bullying.  The other concerns Senator Kimberley Kitching who died of a heart attack recently and who, some of her friends and colleagues assert, was bullied by work colleagues.

Allegations of this type are very difficult to investigate and filter as so many issues and allegations are raised in the media by anonymous sources. 

Both jurisdictions, Victoria and Federal, are due for elections this year which may have contributed to the level and type of media attention.

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Why bother with the Federal Government on OHS matters?

Australian political debate has a recurring thread of State and Federal responsibility. Currently, this debate focuses on the emergency response for floods in Queensland and New South Wales. Before this was the COVID response and the Black Summer bushfires. This argument over responsibility has trickled along for many years, for Constitutional and other reasons, including occupational health and safety (OHS).

Some years ago, all the Australian governments had a stab at resolving the split without reforming the Constitution through the OHS harmonisation strategy. It tweaked the system without Constitutional reform, but OHS will remain primarily a State and Territory matter (except for Comcare). This allows Prime Minister Scott Morrison to make bold statements (and some not-so-bold) about national problems like sexual harassment in Australian workplaces or worker exploitation in agriculture, understanding that the local jurisdictions are the ones who need to fix and police the problems.

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Notifiable psych injuries may be what’s needed

Recently the Victorian Government proposed six-monthly reports on psychologically hazardous incidents from employers to the OHS regulator, WorkSafe. The aim is to improve the pool of data available to the government in order to tailor harm prevention and reduction initiatives and a red tape campaign from employers is expected. These incident summaries are not the same as reporting a Notifiable Incident to WorkSafe but the notifiable incidents categories are overdue for a review and, maybe, an expansion.

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On mental health, everyone wants to win

In response to the first of this series of articles on Victoria’s proposed Psychological Health regulations, one reader provided an excellent outline of one of the roads leading to the proposal. It is certainly worth looking back to the Boland Review and recommendations, but it is also worth considering some of the politics around Minister Stitt’s announcement in May 2021.

Recently WorkSafe Victoria’s Principal Psychological Health and Safety Specialist, Dr Libby Brook, was interviewed on the Psych Health and Safety Podcast. In providing background to the proposed regulations, politics was touched upon, sort of, but it was good to hear directly from a WorkSafe representative on the issue and the proposed regulations. The interview illustrated some of the strengths and weaknesses in the regulations.

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What is a psychological incident?

The Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for Victoria’s draft Psychological Health Regulation does not seem to define what is meant by a psychosocial incident. (If I have missed it, please include a reference in the comments section below) In trying to establish a workplace mental health demographic, the RIS states that:

“As there is currently no legislative reporting requirements for psychosocial incidents, voluntary calls received by WorkSafe’s advisory service have been used as a proxy to estimate the prevalence of psychosocial incidents in the workplace.”

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It is a pretty fluffy determination that the RIS accepts, further illustrating the need for additional data. The advisory service figures record 80% of psychosocial calls relate to bullying.

Continue reading “What is a psychological incident?”

Is red tape justified?

One of the interesting features of the Psychological Health regulations proposed by the Victorian Government last month is the requirement for employers to provide regular six-monthly reports on psychological incidents.

The Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) states that:

“…the proposed regulatory amendments will require employers to keep written records of prevention plans for prescribed psychosocial hazards and impose reporting requirements on medium and large employers.”

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