Annual Report 2004-2005

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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) Act 1991 (the Act).

The department's occupational health and safety policy

The department attaches a high priority to the wellbeing of its employees and 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. Underpinning this approach is the two-year Employer/Employee Occupational Health and Safety Agreement, dated 9 September 2003, between management, staff and union representatives, which defines the structural framework within which OHS is managed in the department.

OHS committees

The department's 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 sub-committee 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 help disseminate health and safety information.

Health and safety representatives

In Australia, there are 32 designated work groups with, at present, 28 elected or nominated health and safety representatives. Each overseas post is also a designated work group.

Health and safety of employees

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 to ensure our OHS management systems comply with our obligations under the Act. The occupant liaises with the department's Medical Unit, Staff Counselling Office, personnel and property managers and IT staff to promote a safe and healthy workplace. The occupant maintains regular contact with staff responsible for OHS at overseas posts.

The potential Comcare client group includes all APS employees located in Australia and overseas and 42 per cent of locally engaged staff at overseas posts. The case manager is also available to help 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

In consultation with Comcare Australia, training modules on OHS and workers compensation and rehabilitation have been incorporated into mandatory management courses for newly appointed SES and staff at all APS levels. The department provided briefings to recently recruited employees and staff proceeding to or returning from overseas postings, including heads of mission/post.

The OHS/rehabilitation case manager arranged for external ergonomic consultants to undertake 96 workstation assessments for employees experiencing discomfort at their work place. Several in-house health promotion activities were conducted by professionally qualified consultants, including fitness classes and a flu vaccination program. Using the department's intranet, we communicated health and safety awareness messages throughout Australia and overseas. Other departmental OHS measures included employer-subsidised eyesight testing for screen-based work and training for first aid, fire warden and designated work group health and safety representatives.

A total of 63 OHS incidents were reported to the OHS/rehabilitation case manager in accordance with section 69 of the Act. Seven incidents were reported to Comcare as work-related incidents involving serious personal injury. Remedial action was undertaken to eliminate or minimise recurrences where possible.

Reporting requirements under the Act

There were 15 incidents or potentially dangerous occurrences reported to Comcare under section 68 of the Act.

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.

  2002–03 2003–04 2004–05
Total departmental staff covered by Comcare (includes employees located in Australia,
Australia-based employees overseas and, where applicable, locally engaged staff)
2 518 2 464 2 400
Number of claims accepted by Comcare, comprising: 20 16 14
— back injuries 2 4 2
— sprains and strains, excluding backs 8 2 3
— occupational overuse injuries 4 6 2
— other 6 4 7
Average cost of compensation claims to date* $10 488 $3 871 $1 597
Departmental premium for Comcare coverage (as a percentage of total departmental wages and salaries) 0.48 0.65 0.71

* Based on customer information data compiled by Comcare for all years shown as at 30 June 2005; covers cost of sick leave taken and all hospital/medical/pharmaceutical costs associated with claims made in each financial year.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2004–2005
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