What’s important to Comcare’s new CEO, Greg Vines
15 August 2023
Greg Vines joined Comcare as its CEO in April 2023 after 10 years as the Deputy Director-General of the International Labour Organization in Geneva. He shares what’s important to him in taking on this role.
My whole working career has been around workplace issues, and particularly what I refer to as the dignity of work. Workplace health and safety is the key to dignity at work because it allows people to not only get the direct benefit from employment, but to work in an environment that’s safe, productive and facilitates their physical and mental wellbeing.
I see Comcare as a critical player in that because Comcare is there to deal with ensuring, to the greatest extent that we can, that workplaces are healthy and safe. We work with employers to give them the information they need, and we work with employees to ensure that they’re getting their proper entitlement to safety and health at work.
Comcare has capacity for enormous influence. Australia has quite a complex system of workplace health and safety and Comcare, I consider, is really at the centre of that being part of the federal government. I think it’s beholden on us to ensure that we are the experts in the field, that we lead on policy development, claims handling, and regulatory activities. And I would hope that through partnerships, through our good collaboration with other jurisdictions, we’re able to give a higher profile to the need for healthy and safe workplaces.
In the last decade, and particularly in the last few years, we’ve seen significant change with different sorts of employment relationships and different work environments. For example, with a lot of work being done in homes.
We’ve seen massive change in the whole work environment through the recognition of psychosocial hazards and risks. There’s a great deal of work that needs to be done in this space, and I think the key part of that is raising awareness about what the risks are, what the hazards are, and most importantly what the actions are that need to be taken.
A key role for Comcare is going to be to inform and educate people on the risks so that individuals can protect themselves, but most importantly so that employers can establish mechanisms that prevent the injury in the first place – and then in the event of injury or risk, they’re able to take actions to alleviate severity.
It's one thing, I think, to have regulations and codes of practice, it’s quite another thing to actually have them implemented. My view is we’ve got to be very practical in the approach we take, and we’ve got to be very clear in the approach we take. We’ve got to recognise the significant differences between workplaces and the challenges in each of them. And we’ve got to really be able to develop the principles, the ideas, the on-the-ground practices that make a difference to workplaces around the country.
I know from what I’ve seen across Australia and my previous role that this really is a global issue. Schemes and other occupational health and safety authorities around the world are grappling with this. And I don’t think it’s a phenomenon or a hazard that’s properly understood.
Good work design
Good work design is absolutely critical. When work is being designed, safety and health must be a critical part of that process.
An important part of designing that work is that it’s done in cooperation, in collaboration, and in consultation with workers. Workers know the work best, know the environment best, know where the risks are, and they need to be supported to address those concerns and avoid the harm.
IPAA Podcast – Work with Purpose
Greg joined the Institute of Public Administration on their Work with Purpose podcast to discuss workplace health and safety, emerging challenges and what’s important to him as Comcare’s leader.
“Working from home has been a great boost for mental health of many workers, but can also lead to bullying, exclusion, and lack of engagement. Benefits do outweigh the disadvantages, but we need to make sure people are supported – regular communication is important. We need to accept and embrace hybrid work, but need to make sure people are safe.”
Listen to the podcast: IPAA ACT | Work with Purpose | Podcast series