Annual Report 2005-2006

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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 improving work practices and to fostering attitudes that sustain healthy and safe work environments. To help achieve this, our Employer/Employee Occupational Health and Safety Agreement was extended for a further two years from 8 December 2005 and continues to define the structural framework for managing Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in the department.

OHS committees

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 sub-committee business decisions are referred to the WRC for endorsement and/or acknowledgement. OHS forums also operate in the department's 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 Canberra, there are 29 designated work groups with, as at 30 June 2006, 26 elected or nominated health and safety representatives. Each overseas post and state and territory office is also a designated work group.

Health and safety of employees

The OHS/rehabilitation case manager is located in the department's Staffing Branch. The case manager provides policy and procedural advice to senior management to ensure our OHS management systems comply with our obligations under the Act. The case manager liaises with the department's Medical Unit, Staff Counsellors Office, personnel and property managers and IT staff to promote a safe and healthy workplace. The case manager 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 40 per cent of locally engaged staff at overseas posts. The case manager is also available to assist staff not covered by Comcare, which 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, training modules on OHS and workers compensation and rehabilitation have been incorporated into mandatory management courses for newly appointed SES and other APS staff. The department provided briefings to recently recruited employees and staff proceeding to or returning from overseas postings, including heads of mission.

The OHS/rehabilitation case manager arranged for external ergonomic consultants to undertake 54 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. First aid training continued to be provided and a register of first aid trained staff was available on the department's intranet, listing 71 staff in Canberra and 72 staff in state and territory offices and overseas posts. We used the department's intranet to communicate health and safety awareness bulletins throughout Australia and overseas. The department provided employer-subsidised eyesight testing for screen-based work and training for fire wardens and health and safety representatives. Seventy-three OHS incidents were reported to the OHS/rehabilitation case manager in accordance with section 69 of the Act. There were eight incidents involving serious personal injury. We undertook remedial action to eliminate or minimise recurrences where possible.

Reporting requirements under the Act

Four incidents or potentially dangerous occurrences were reported to Comcare under section 68.

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.

  2003–04 2004–05 2005–06
Total departmental staff covered by Comcare (includes employees located in Australia, Australia-based employees overseas and, where applicable, locally engaged staff) 2 464 2 400 2 454
Number of claims accepted by Comcare*:
— falls, trips and slips 3 3 5
— being hit by a moving objects 0 4 2
— body stressing 11 5 3
— heat/chemical, biological or other substance 13 3 1
— mental stress   3 0
— other 2 4 5
total 20 22 16
Average cost of compensation claims to date* $8 575 $12 319 $30 780
Departmental premium for Comcare coverage (as a percentage of total departmental wages and salaries) as at 30 June 2006** 0.60 0.60 0.51

* Based on customer data compiled by Comcare as at 30 June 2006; covers cost of sick leave taken and all hospital/medical/pharmaceutical costs. These figures are represented in the year an injury or illness occurred and can change year to year as additional claims are lodged or costs incurred. Listed categories represent new reporting by Comcare and differ from those reported in previous years.

** The Comcare coverage premium for current and previous years is reviewed annually by Comcare based on the changes during the year in the number of claims and the average costs of all claims relating to injury or illness.

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