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Appendix 3

Occupational health and safety

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

The department’s occupational health and safety policy

The department is committed to facilitating an organisational culture that actively seeks to improve work practices and to foster attitudes that sustain healthy and safe work environments. To help achieve this, a new Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Policy Statement was issued by the Secretary in March 2003 and a new two-year Employer/Employee OHS Agreement is being negotiated between management, staff and union representatives.

The departmental Workplace Relations Committee (WRC) OHS Sub-Committee meets every three months and represents the collective interests of the employer, employees, contractors, clients and visitors. All business decisions are referred to the WRC for endorsement and/or acknowledgement. OHS forums also operate in state and territory offices and at our overseas posts to facilitate cooperation on OHS matters between management and employees and to assist in the dissemination of health and safety information.

In Australia, there are 31 designated work groups with, at present, 29 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 provide policy and procedural advice to senior management with a view to ensuring our OHS management systems comply with our obligations under the Act. Close liaison is maintained with the Medical Unit, the departmental Counsellor, personnel and property managers and information technology 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 departmental Australian Public Service 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, 38 OHS incidents were reported to the OHS/rehabilitation case manager, none of which resulted in serious personal injury. Remedial action was undertaken to eliminate or minimise recurrences where possible. In response to requests from employees experiencing discomfort at their workstations, the OHS/rehabilitation case manager arranged 60 workstation assessments by external ergonomic consultants. We undertook training sessions on workplace safety for newly appointed SES staff, recently recruited employees and staff proceeding to or returning from overseas postings.

The Secretary approved measures to ensure appropriate long-term management and funding of the department’s Fitness Centre. We invited professionally qualified consultants to conduct in-house health promotion activities, including yoga and fitness classes and a flu vaccination program. We communicated health and safety awareness messages throughout Australia and overseas with bulletins on the department’s intranet and distributed a monthly electronic newsletter titled well@work.

Response to Comcare Planned Investigation Program (PIP) 2001–2002

Comcare Australia conducted a Planned Investigation Program (PIP) of three departmental worksites in Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney between March and June 2002 to assess our OHS policies and practices in line with the requirements of section 41 of the OHS (CE) Act 1991. In a report of its findings in October 2002, Comcare said that the main strengths of the department’s OHS systems were the management of work processes and the movement of materials, while weaknesses were identified in our risk management and training strategies and in our incident notification procedures.

In early February 2003, the Senior Executive approved a whole-of-department OHS Action Plan responding to the recommendations and, in May 2003, Comcare advised that action proposed had adequately addressed its recommendations. Implementation of the Plan is expected to be completed by the end of 2003.

Reporting requirements under the Act

One potentially dangerous occurrence related to asbestos removal was 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.

No investigations were conducted.

Table 29. Occupational health and safety statistics
  2002–03 2001–02 2000–01
Total departmental staff covered by Comcare (includes employees located in Australia, Australia-based employees overseas and, where applicable, locally engaged staff) 2 578 2 673 2 759
Number of claims accepted by Comcare, comprising: 12 21 15
—back injuries 2 1 4
—sprains and strains, excluding backs 5 9 3
—occupational overuse injuries 2 4 1
—other 3 7 7
Average cost of compensation claims to date* $4 078 $3 635 $3 208
Departmental premium for Comcare coverage (as a percentage of total departmental wages and salaries) 0.46 0.48 0.70
* 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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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2002–2003
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