Can Australia Post’s executives survive the most recent allegations?

Australia Post features regularly in the mainstream press.  Recently, the media and Government discussed the pay packet of its Chief Executive Officer, Ahmed Fahour, but a safety management issue has been bubbling along for some time and reappeared this morning in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) “Australia post investigated over alleged manipulation of injury rate for bonuses” ($paywall).

The AFR writes that

“Comcare is investigating Australia Post over allegations that some senior managers manipulated data on injured employees’ absences from work to meet key performance indicators and secure hefty bonuses.”

This is allegedly done by

  • “delaying injury claims,
  • recording workers on sick leave when they are really absent on injury, and
  • paying for medical expenses in lieu of workers lodging compensation claims.”

Continue reading “Can Australia Post’s executives survive the most recent allegations?”

Queensland’s workers’ compensation performance is “double plus good”

The Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, called a “snap” election for the end of January 2015. On 11 January 2015, Newman tweeted:

“Queenslanders injured at work are covered by Australia’s strongest workers’ compensation scheme.”

This is a further example of political newspeak as what does a “strong” workers’ compensation scheme look like? Newman’s tweet included an image that provides some clarity to his claim.

LNP WC Twitter graphic Continue reading “Queensland’s workers’ compensation performance is “double plus good””

A top OHS blog for 2014

I am very proud to receive recognition from LexisNexis again in 2014 for my work on the SafetyAtWorkBlog.  On 16 December 2014 LexisNexis Legal Newsroom Workers’ Compensation named the SafetyAtWorkBlog as one of the Top Blogs for Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Issues. It is a great honour for a blog that is self-funded and written in my spare time.

LexisNexis has described some of the articles as “insightful and entertaining” and reflective. One article in particular was a discussion spurred by the writings of Terry Reis and would not have been possible without his initial article.

I thank LexisNexis for this unexpected honour and feel very proud to be amongst the other honourees for 2014.  It is good to see new ones on the list and encourage all those OHS professionals who feel they have something to say, to say it.  The more voices the OHS profession has, the richer our debates and the greater our state of knowledge.

Kevin Jones

 

Whitlam’s dismissal diverted workers compensation reform

In October 2014, one of Australia’s Prime Ministers, Gough Whitlam, died at the age of 98.  Whitlam introduced major social reforms, many which still exist today (just).  One reform he valued but was not able to achieve was a national accident compensation scheme. It is worth noting when reading of the current economic and moral arguments over workplace responsibility and over-regulation that Whitlam’s national accident compensation scheme included workers compensation.

In 1974, during Whitlam’s time as the Prime Minister of Australia, the New Zealand government established a no-fault accident compensation scheme following the 1967 Royal Commission of Inquiry into Compensation for Personal Injury in New Zealand chaired by Owen Woodhouse.  Woodhouse was invited to assess the likelihood of a similar scheme being introduced in Australia.  He completed his inquiry (not available online) for such a scheme and legislation was drafted. The bill was in the Australian Parliament when the Whitlam government was dismissed by Governor-General John Kerr.  As a result of the political machinations of the Liberal Party of Australia, Australia missed the opportunity to have a national accident compensation scheme. Continue reading “Whitlam’s dismissal diverted workers compensation reform”

“Put the human being first”

One of the most contentious issues in safety management is the treatment of workers compensation claimants.  On 18 August 2014, a small qualitative research report into this area was launched in Melbourne.  The report, “Filling the Dark Spot: fifteen injured workers shine a light on the workers compensation system to improve it for others”* identified four themes in the workers’ stories:

  • a sense of injustice
  • a lack of control and agency
  • loss of trust, and
  • loss of identity.

These themes, or at least some of them, are increasingly appearing on the occupational health and safety (OHS) literature.  To establish a successful sustainable workplace culture, one needs to establish and maintain trust.  Workers also seem to need some degree of control, or at least influence, over their working conditions and environment.  Also workers, and managers, need to receive a fair hearing, what most would describe as “natural justice”.

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Victorian Minister claims “safest state in Australia”

Victoria’s Minister for WorkCover, Assistant Treasurer Gordon Rich-Phillips, obviously felt obliged to get in early for the 2012 WorkSafe Week by stating, in a media release, that:

“Victoria is the safest state in Australia in which to work”

Rich-Phillips quotes a range of statistics based on a recent report by Safe Work Australia (SWA) – the Fourteenth Edition of the Comparative Performance Monitoring.  His claims may be correct but he is selective.  He mentions his State’s workers compensation claims performance:

“Victoria had nine serious injury and disease claims for every 1,000 employees, far fewer than the national average of 12.2 claims. It was also well ahead of the Northern Territory (11.2 claims), Western Australia (12), South Australia (12.3), Australian Capital Territory (13), New South Wales (13.7), Queensland (14.7) and Tasmania (15.6).”

However it is well-known that workers’ compensation statistics indicate performance of the workers’ compensation scheme and claims,  and not the real workplace injury rate.  The SWA report provides information on both safety performance and workers’ compensation claims.  The Minister extrapolates the performance of one element and applies it to the other.

The Comparative Performance Monitoring report also measures each State’s regulatory safety performance against the agreed National OHS Strategy.  Against the Injury and Musculoskeletal measure, again based on claims data, only South Australia exceeded the “36% improvement required to meet the long term target of a 40% improvement by 30 June 2012.”

Victoria came third, after New South Wales, with a 31% improvement rate.

Safe Work Australia stated that

” It is unlikely that Australia will meet the target.” (page 2)

The targets of the OHS National Strategy established in 2012 have been aspirational for some time and without any fear of sanction or reward for attainment, the worth of any National OHS Strategy is dubious.

SWA’s report also includes very positive national statistics on fatalities but still insists that:

“The volatility in this measure means that this improvement should be interpreted with caution and consistent improvement is still required to ensure the target is actually achieved.” (page 3)

This caution is missing from the statements of Gordon Rich-Phillips. Continue reading “Victorian Minister claims “safest state in Australia””

New research on doctor visits hints at new areas of OHS research

The Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) is drawing considerable attention to a recent research report into the actions of patients after medical practitioners ( a general practitioner or GP in Australian parlance) have identified a work-related illness. The research is unique and instructive and indicates areas that require more analysis.

According to the media release on the research:

“ISCRR’s Chief Research Officer, Dr Alex Collie, who conceived the research, said that over 22 per cent of workers didn’t make compensation claims even though their GP had determined that the illness was work-related.” (link added)

Dr Collie continues:

“There are a number of reasons we are seeing work-related conditions not being claimed.. Continue reading “New research on doctor visits hints at new areas of OHS research”

NSW inquiry into workers’ compensation illustrates short-termism

UnionsNSW are campaigning strongly on OHS issues during an inquiry by Joint Select Committee on the NSW Workers’ Compensation Scheme into workers compensation.  They make the point that a focus on the reduction of injury is the most effective way of rendering a workers compensation scheme “profitable”.  By neglecting worker safety, injuries increase and there is a higher demand on compensation and rehabilitation resources.

A major concern in the campaign is that the government is focussing on reducing costs and, in workers’ compensation schemes, that often results in fewer resources for injured workers and their families.

Tim Ayres, Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“If NSW employers want to save money on workers’ comp premiums, they should focus on reducing their premiums by providing safer workplaces where workers don’t get injured and killed.”

But a draft submission, seen by SafetyAtWorkBlog, by the International Governance and Performance Research Centre (IGPRC) of Macquarie University provides some balance into the rhetoric. Continue reading “NSW inquiry into workers’ compensation illustrates short-termism”

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. Continue reading “Differentiate the WorkCover and WorkSafe brands”

UK’s approach to OHS reform is flawed by short-term political strategy

England’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has described OHS as a “monster” in a speech to small business owners on 5 January 2012. It is important to note the PM’s comments prior to his monster reference that have not been repeated in the mainstream press. He refers to

“… a great big machine of health and safety that has built up over years.”

Cameron feels that he needs to address an OHS regulatory system and enforcement strategies that have become too complex for, particularly, small business to comply with. Part of his solution is to exempt the self-employed, in some specific sectors, from OHS laws. This is a questionable decision as it effectively establishes a two-tier safety management regime and sets a precedent for other similar sectors to lobby for an exemption from other, perceived, onerous laws.

It may be that OHS laws in the UK have become overly complicated over time but the role of the media must be considered in that it has focussed on many absurd managerial decisions that have resulted from a skewed understanding of OHS and risk. Frequently the media reports have no relation to OHS laws and all to do with an increasing litigious society and the pursuit of money through, potentially spurious, public liability insurance claims.

In the 5 January 2012 speech Cameron states that

“…the key about health and safety is not just the rules and the laws and the regulations – it is also the culture of fear many businesses have about health and safety.” (emphasis added)

Cameron explains his answer for reducing this fear of health and safety, the capping of fees that lawyers can earn from legal action against businesses on behalf of their clients, usually, employees. There is no fear of health and safety, it is a fear of litigation. Cameron is not on about OHS law reform, his concern is about “unnecessary” litigation costs. This is unlikely to be reduced by cutting the budget of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) which must reduce services as the HSE resources have been contracting for some time. Continue reading “UK’s approach to OHS reform is flawed by short-term political strategy”