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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Annual Report 2000-2001
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Appendix 4: Occupational health and safety

Information in this appendix is provided in accordance with Section 74 of the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991.

The department’s occupational health and safety policy

The department is committed to ensuring the health, welfare and safety of all its employees in Australia and overseas. To help achieve this, an Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Agreement with the relevant staff associations has been in place since 1992. Two positions, OH&S officer and rehabilitation case manager, were combined during the year, allowing for a more consistent and focused management of all OH&S-related issues, including facilitation of an early and safe return to work for staff following illness or injury.

The departmental OH&S Committee meets every three months and provides an opportunity for management, staff and union representatives to discuss OH&S issues. There are 22 designated work groups in Australia and, at present, 20 health and safety representatives elected or appointed by group members. Each overseas post is also a designated work group.

The OH&S officer/rehabilitation case manager is located in the Staffing Branch. A key purpose of the appointment is to encourage staff to take responsibility for health issues within their control. Close liaison is maintained with the Medical Unit, the building managers and property and IT staff to promote a safe and healthy workplace. Contact is also maintained with OH&S staff at overseas posts.

The potential Comcare client group includes all APS employees located in Australia and overseas and about half of the locally engaged staff at overseas posts. The case manager is also available to assist staff not covered by Comcare: this includes locally engaged staff covered under overseas insurance agreements and contract employees.

Measures taken during the year to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of employees and contractors

During the year there were 39 OH&S incident reports, resulting in one serious Comcare claim. The remainder were in the category of slips, trips and falls. Remedial action was undertaken to prevent recurrences where possible.

The OH&S officer/rehabilitation case manager carried out over 20 workstation assessments in response to requests from employees experiencing discomfort while at their workstations. Where greater expertise was required, ergonomic consultants were called in. One staff member was supplied with a voice-activated computer program. The consultancy on the examination of OH&S issues that may arise for diplomatic couriers was terminated, at no cost, when the consultant unexpectedly transferred overseas. The OH&S officer/rehabilitation case manager took part in training sessions for current and new employees.

Reporting requirements under the Act

One serious accident was reported to Comcare under section 68 of the Act.

No notices were issued under section 29, section 46 or section 47.

No directions were given to the department under section 45.

There were no investigations conducted.

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Table 31. Occupational health and safety statistics

1998–99

1999–2000

2000–01

Total departmental staff covered by Comcare (includes employees located in Australia, Australia-based employees overseas and, where applicable, locally engaged staff)

2,828

2,823

2,759

Number of claims accepted by Comcare, comprising: 28 25 15
   - back injuries 5 6 4
   - sprains and strains, excluding backs 7 3 3
   - occupational overuse injuries 5 8 1

   - other

11

8

7

Average cost of compensation claims*

Not available

Not available

$3,207.69

Departmental premium for Comcare coverage (as a percentage of total departmental wages and salaries)

0.38

0.49

0.53

* Information provided by Comcare; covers cost of sick leave taken and all associated hospital/medical/pharmaceutical costs associated with the claim.

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