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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade :: 2001-2002 Annual Report
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Appendix 4
Occupational health and safety

Page Contents

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 creating and maintaining workplace arrangements and work environments that ensure the health, welfare and safety of all its employees. To help achieve this, an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Agreement with the relevant staff associations has been in place since 1992.

The departmental OHS Committee meets every three months and provides an opportunity for management, staff and union representatives to discuss OHS issues. To maintain appropriate employee representation and effective consultation with management on OHS issues, two new designated work groups were established in 2002 following changes to the department's organisational structure. In Australia there are 31 designated work groups, with 30 elected or nominated health and safety representatives. Each overseas post is also a designated work group.

The OHS/rehabilitation case manager is located in the department's Staffing Branch. A key purpose of the position is to encourage managers, supervisors and staff, through training and consultation, to take responsibility for health and safety matters within their control. Close liaison is maintained with the Medical Unit, building managers, the Domestic Property and Services Section and IT staff to promote a safe and healthy workplace. Contact is also maintained with staff responsible for OHS at overseas posts.

The potential Comcare client group includes all Australian Public Service employees located in Australia and overseas and about half the locally engaged staff at overseas posts. The OHS/rehabilitation 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.

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

During the year 49 OHS incidents were reported to the OHS/rehabilitation case manager, none of which involved serious personal injury. Remedial action was undertaken to eliminate or minimise recurrence of incidents where possible. The OHS/rehabilitation case manager arranged 36 workstation assessments by external ergonomic consultants in response to requests from employees experiencing discomfort at their workstations. Training sessions on workplace safety for current and new employees were also regularly undertaken.

The department initiated a number of in-house health promotion activities conducted by professionally qualified consultants. Health and safety awareness messages were communicated throughout Australia and overseas by bulletins on the department's intranet and distribution of a monthly electronic newsletter entitled well@work. All designated work groups in Australia and some overseas posts were provided with a set of OHS posters.

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Comcare Planned Investigation Program 2001-2002

Comcare Australia undertook an extensive examination of the department's OHS management systems as part of its Planned Investigation Program 2001-2002. Three worksites in Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney were visited between March and June 2002 to assess our OHS policies and practices in line with the requirements of section 41 of the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991. In 2002-03, Comcare will forward official reports with recommendations on its findings to each worksite, plus a whole-of-agency report to the Secretary on the major findings of the investigations and key steps that might be considered in order to implement the recommendations. Preliminary feedback from Comcare suggests that our performance against the assessment criteria was slightly above the Australian Government agency average.

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Reporting requirements under the Act

Two dangerous occurrences-involving the detection of unknown and possibly dangerous powdery substances in mail-were reported to Comcare under section 68 of the Act.

No serious accidents occurred.

No directions were given to the department under section 45.

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

There were no investigations conducted.

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Table 30. Occupational health and safety statistics

  1999-2000 2000-01 2001-02
Total departmental staff covered by Comcare (includes employees located in Australia, Australia-based employees overseas and, where applicable, locally engaged staff) 2 823 2 759 2 673
Number of claims accepted by Comcare, comprising: 25 15 21
  -back injuries 6 4 1
  -sprains and strains, excluding backs 3 3 9
  -occupational overuse injuries 8 1 4
  -other 8 7 7
Average cost of compensation claims [Note 1] n.a. [*]$3 208 [*]$3 645
Departmental premium for Comcare coverage (as a percentage of total departmental wages and salaries) 0.49 0.53 0.47

n.a. not available.

* Figure rounded.

1 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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