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COVID-19: Work health and safety in a changing environment

COVID-19 restrictions are evolving at different stages across states and territories; many Australians continue to work from home, whilst other workers are beginning to transition back to their usual workplace.

Employers should continue to conduct risk assessments in consultation with workers and HSRs to identify and control exposure to hazards and associated risks when changes to work environment and activities occur.

Hazards can include:

Employers should notify Comcare of all confirmed COVID-19 cases that are work-related.

Transition plans for workers returning to usual workplaces should consider the unique circumstance of the organisation, focusing on continued delivery of critical functions – ensuring workplaces are safe for all workers. 

Transition plans should:

Employers should consult with HSRs and workers to determine:

Visit the Comcare website for further guidance on transitioning employees back to usual workplaces. Also view the recording of our recent webinar – COVID-19: Navigating a New Normal.

Working from home claims – trends and advice

Our Comcare claims data* indicates a change in the number of working from home claims, during the period – March to June 2020, when workplaces rapidly transitioned to home-based work, in response to

The key causative factors include workstation set up, falls and slip/trip incidents, soft tissue conditions caused by overuse and repetitive motions.

Working from home claims

The number of working from home claims received was 25 in this period, compared to 0 during the same period in 2018-19. The majority of the 25 home-based work claims received (88%) are related to injury or physical disease.

Regardless of the work environment, employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of workers, and workers have obligations to follow the organisations safe work policies and procedures, notifying their employer of any hazards or potential risks.

Employers should implement a range of strategies to ensure the safety of their home-based workers, including:

View Comcare’s working from home resources and tools and follow Safe Work Australia’s current health and safety information for your industry.

*As at 13 July 2020.

Flexible Working

Striking the balance with flexible working

Home-based work has provided benefits for many workers and employers – boosting productivity and improving work-life balance. But there can also be risks for organisations – blurred lines between work and home and missed opportunities for collaboration.

Comcare has produced a resource to help employers get this balance right.

The fact sheet offers practical tips and research to guide approaches to blending remote work with operations in usual workplaces.

The evidence suggests several considerations for employers, such as understanding your organisational requirements, clear communication with staff, and investing in your managers to adopt new styles and skills suitable for remote management.

Also important is an understanding of the needs of individual workers. Their home workspaces, family arrangements, personalities, and relationships with managers and co-workers can all influence their preferences and ability to work flexibly.

Read our Striking the Balance with Flexible Working fact sheet to learn how employers can design work that is good for business and supports a healthy, engaged and productive workforce.

Scheme performance 2019-20: body stressing remains top cause of claims

Body stressing remains the leading cause of claim, accounting for 40% of claims last year and represents 42% of claims over a 5-year average. Comcare’s scheme performance highlights for the financial year 2019-20 include:

  • The majority of injuries concern the shoulder at 13%, followed by the lower back and knee, each representing 11% of total injuries. Body stressing injuries are most commonly located in the shoulder (22%) or the lower back (21%).
Scheme Performance

This data provides valuable insights that inform and support decision making around workplace health and safety programs and initiatives. It also helps promote transparency and drive continuous improvement across the Comcare scheme. View Comcare’s Scheme performance data.

National Safe Work Month

National Safe Work Month 2020

National Safe Work Month (NSWM) is an annual initiative led by Safe Work Australia every October.

Comcare will support the event with a series of webinars to support this year’s NSWM theme: Work Health and Safety through COVID-19, with a focus on the wide-reaching impacts of COVID-19 on Australian businesses, employers and workers.

Attend our three webinars:

Visit Comcare’s dedicated NSWM page to access a range of other resources, guidance and tools that focus on mentally healthy workplaces, COVID-safe workplaces and WHS at a worker level and at a leadership level.

Comcare's Corporate Plan

Comcare’s new Corporate Plan is now available, setting out our purpose, strategic priorities and organisational values for the next four years. 

This is the blueprint that guides all our activities. We have revised our purpose to Promote and enable safe and healthy work, and this flows to revised strategic priorities to ensure ongoing excellence and leadership as a national work and safety regulator and workers’ compensation authority.

Comcare's Corporate Plan

Our new priorities are Excellence in service provision, Engagement with our stakeholders, Prevention and early intervention across our scheme, Insight driven and risk and evidence-based practice, and Being adaptable in the face of change. These priorities reflect the many connections between Comcare’s different functions including prevention, early intervention, injury management, compensation and rehabilitation.

Key work identified for the life of the Corporate Plan includes:

Work is also under way on Comcare’s Annual Report 2019–20, due to be published in October.
View Comcare’s Corporate Plan 2020-21 on our website.

Did you know?

Comcare-AIHW Data Partnership
aims to improve understanding of health service utilisation and outcomes for sick or injured workers in comparison to the broader population. Data indicates variation between the top injury for people aged 25-44 years.

Top injury for workers Top injury for broader community
Body Stressing
Body stressing

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Doctor treating iconTreatment
Comcare led an early intervention service pilot with several APS agencies that achieved double the recovery rate, improved recovery at and return to work outcomes and high levels of satisfaction.

Read the evaluation findings

DocumentLead Indicator Mentoring Program 
successfully built the capacity of employers in using a lead indicator tool for strategic psychosocial risk reduction, assisting workplaces with prevention strategies and influence health and safety outcomes.

Read the evaluation findings

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