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”

South Australia’s postponement of harmonisation shows the political weaknesses of the process

South Australia’s Parliament has delayed the introduction of its Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act until 2012 by postponing debate on the WHS Bill until February 2012.  The instigator for this action was the opposition (Liberal) parliamentarian, Rob Lucas, who SafetyAtWorkBlog has written about previously.

Lucas has issued a media release that states

“The Weatherill Government has continued to ignore the growing concern from industry organisations about the impact on housing affordability and the costs of doing business. Employer groups such as Business SA, the Housing Industry Association, Master Builders Association, Motor Traders Association, Australian Hotels Association, Civil Contractors Federation, Self Insurers of South Australia, and Independent Contractors Australia are all supporting significant amendments to the legislation…..

“It is also now clear there is no prospect of ‘harmonised’ work safety laws operation in all states and territories. Continue reading “South Australia’s postponement of harmonisation shows the political weaknesses of the process”

Australian OHS experts call for a single OHS regulator and a unified insurance system

Some of Australia’s top work health and safety experts have stressed, to Safe Work Australia, the need for a single national OHS regulator.  Many also called for a radical overhaul of workers’ compensation and insurance structures to achieve a combined insurance/compensation similar to that of New Zealand, the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC).

These calls were made in a  whole day workshop, conducted by Safe Work Australia on 30 August 2011, on the development of the next ten-year national OHS strategy.  This was the latest of around ten consultative sessions whose notes will be summarised and posted online.  The notes from an earlier seminar list the following discussion topics:

  • “The need to focus on work health and safety prevention.
  • Engagement with target groups and industries to ensure advice and support is relevant to enable them to effectively respond to hazards.
  • Engineering hazards out through good design.
  • Influencing the supply chain inside and outside Australia.
  • Prioritising key work health and safety hazards and focusing national attention.
  • Creating opportunities for innovation in work health and safety particularly within the regulatory framework.
  • Enhancing the culture of safety leadership (promoting highly reliable organisations).
  • The importance of safety culture.
  • Enhancing the capability of workers to return to work following accident or illness.
  • Influencing or assisting academia to undertake research – focusing on intervention effectiveness.
  • Developing a shared communication strategy to promote the new principles of the new Strategy.”

These echo many of the comments in today’s seminar and illustrate what was a major missed opportunity.  The theme of today’s workshop was to imagine what OHS (or work health and safety or work health safety & environment, as some suggested) will be like in 2022 but there were few futuristic suggestions.  This was the opportunity to extend some of the practices currently undertaken by ten years. Continue reading “Australian OHS experts call for a single OHS regulator and a unified insurance system”

The European experience with economic incentives for OHS improvements

Last decade the New South Wales government operated a “premium discount scheme” intended to reinvest workers’ compensation funds into preventative safety measures and programs.  Other OHS jurisdictions had a similar authority but chose not to apply it.  Since then economic safety incentives have not been on the political agenda. 

However this is not the case in other parts of the world.  In 2010, the European Agency of Safety and Health at Work undertook a review of economic incentives (“Economic incentives to improve occupational safety and health: a review from the European perspective”).  Those findings may be worth considering in light of some of the political changes on incentives in other areas of public policy, such as carbon taxes.

From outside the European Union, the comparative charts of member schemes are of less interest than the literature review and report conclusions.  The incentives that the report says have some positive benefits include