The ABS is committed to the health, safety and welfare of all its employees. A dedicated unit in Central Office, complemented by individual employees in Regional Offices, ensures the requirements of the relevant legislation are observed.
A network of Occupational Health and Safety Committees is the vehicle for consultation on issues affecting staff.
During 2000-01, 269 staff were selected and trained as Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) under the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991 (the Act).
An Improvement Notice under section 47(1) of the Act was issued to the ABS by a Comcare appointed investigator on 15 December 2000. The notice stated that the ABS failed to consult with HSRs, as requested, and provide them with information related to health and safety issues. The investigator ceased the notice on 14 February 2001 on the grounds that the ABS had developed a method to allow information to be available to HSRs.
On 8 February 2001 a Provisional Improvement Notice was issued to the ABS by a HSR. The notice stated that the ABS failed to consult under section 30(1)(a) of the Act about changes at the workplace, and the implementation of new accommodation standards, and failed to consult with HSRs, as requested, on matters relating to accommodation
standards, guidelines, and/or fit out specifications for ABS House. The ABS requested an investigation into the matter. The investigator cancelled the Provisional Improvement Notice on 15 February 2001 on the basis that the ABS had not contravened paragraph 30(1)(a) and subsection 47(6) of the Act.
There were 370 reported accidents and incidents in 2000-01 (compared with 316 in 1999-2000). The reported accidents fall into the following broad categories:
Injury types are categorised according to the major injury type or cause. The ‘other’ category includes sprains and strains, trips and slips, and injury types not specifically diagnosed by a medical practitioner.
There were 81 lost time injuries in 2000-01 (compared to 62 lost time injuries in 1999-2000).
During 2000-01, 93 compensation claims (compared with 116 in 1999-2000) were submitted, 33 (50 in 1999-2000) of which required implementation of a Return to Work Plan. There were 50 (40 in 1999-2000) compensation case closures for the period. Under the Fitness for Duty Guidelines, 70 cases required case management in 2000-01 and 121 cases were closed.
The ABS continues to provide all staff, and their immediate families, with access to a staff counselling service.
As a result of a small number of high cost journey and legal claims the Comcare premium for 2001-02 has been set at 1.23% of total salary (including GST).
Major achievements and measures taken to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees during 2000-01 included:
- training for ABS Occupational Health and Safety employees and some Health and Safety Representatives on SafetyMAP to enable occupational health and safety self auditing in the ABS;
- continuing to review Comcare data to identify potential high cost claims and trends, and to allow effective reporting to relevant areas;
- conducting national network meetings to discuss accident and injury trends and the various preventative and intervention strategies implemented in each office;
- continuing a strong national program of rehabilitation for ill and injured employees, which has achieved positive rehabilitation and return to work outcomes;
- continuing the focus on safety in all offices including individual workstation assessments and training in the correct adjustment to workstations and the correct use of ergonomic furniture;
- ongoing involvement in matters relating to the occupational health and safety aspects of ABS House including regular meetings with health and safety representatives and risk assessments for identified areas;
- ongoing trials of computer equipment and software to reduce strain and improve comfort for clients with an injury;
- centralising national health and safety contacts on the ABS Intranet Welcome Page;
- conducting Electromagnetic Field (EMF) testing to determine whether there was any relationship between EMF readings and Visual Display Unit flicker. EMF outputs were within the current acceptable range; and
- testing air quality in Central Office (wings 7 and 9) between February 2001 and June 2001 to determine the levels of temperature, humidity, air borne particulates, carbon dioxide and fungal spores. The levels were within the current acceptable range.