Work health and safety management

Comcare is committed to the health, safety and wellbeing of its employees. This commitment is reflected through the continued development and implementation of our WHS and injury management system processes, strategic plans and the health and wellbeing  programme.

During 2015–16, Comcare had a major focus on delivering initiatives identified in our Corporate Plan, which included:

  • strengthening leadership skills in WHS
  • implementing a high quality  internal WHS system
  • implementing early intervention strategies to reduce potential harm
  • implementing WHS training for all Comcare employees.

Health and safety initiatives

Throughout the year, Comcare undertook various initiatives to ensure it provides a healthy and safe workplace, which included:

  • reinvigorating and auditing the performance of our WHS management system
  • development of our 2015–2019 WHS Strategy—Leading Safety
  • commencement of a long-term study into the effectiveness of software-based prompts influencing sit/stand desk usage
  • holding consultative meetings with various committees and forums
  • development and distribution of WHS awareness promotional material
  • conducting inspections of Comcare offices and first aid supplies
  • compiling risk assessments of its regulatory and claims management activities
  • regular reporting to Comcare’s Executive Committee.

A significant amount of  work was invested by Comcare in the modernisation of our WHS induction module  and the delivery of WHS training to 90 per cent of our APS level 6 and above employees, which informed participants about WHS management responsibilities and principles of risk management.  Furthermore, employees that hold a health and safety role in Comcare—health and safety representatives, harassment contact officers, first  aid officers and emergency wardens— were provided with the appropriate  accredited training and where relevant received refresher training.

It was previously reported Comcare was streamlining its eight health and safety committees into three. This process was finalised and has achieved positive results due to the broader representation of operational risks across the entity.

Wellbeing initiatives

During the period Comcare’s wellbeing initiatives were focused on supporting and promoting healthy lifestyle choices by delivering targeted activities aimed at physical, mental, nutritional and occupational health. Our physical health activities were centred on using of sit/stand desks and 232 employees participating in the annual 10 000 steps challenge. In 2015–16 Comcare provided mental health activities to increase mental health awareness through promoting the Employee  Assistance Program and holding seminars during R U Ok? Day and World Mental Health Week. For nutritional health, Comcare focused on promoting the services of State and Territory nutritional advisory services. Our occupational health activities involved providing influenza vaccinations for 269 employees and 29 reimbursements for prescription spectacles.

Comcare believes in empowering its employees to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into their daily lives and provides support in the form of a health and wellbeing reimbursement. In 2015–16, 65 per cent of eligible employees claimed this reimbursement and continue making healthy lifestyle choices outside of the workplace.

Statutory reporting requirements

Under the Work Health and Safety Act  2011 (WHS Act) Comcare is required to report particular information. During 2015–16, Comcare reported zero notifiable incidents and was not involved in any statutory enforcements or investigations.

Employee Assistance Program

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP), provided by Assure Programs, provides telephone and face‑to‑face access to confidential individual counselling that supports the psychological wellbeing of employees and their families. In addition to individual counselling, a Manager’s Hotline, online information, on-site trauma and critical incident counselling, conflict resolution and mediation support services are available.

In 2015–16 the EAP usage rate (new referrals) was 8.86 per cent of the total Comcare workforce for  the nine month period with a predicted annual usage rate of 11.81 per cent at the conclusion of the 12 month reporting period in October 2016. The percentage of personal to work-related issues, as the primary reason for accessing this service, was 72 per cent to 28 per cent respectively. These figures indicate an increase in use for personal issues and decrease in work-related issues compared to the previous financial year.

Early intervention programme

Comcare continues to focus on reducing injury claims through active injury prevention strategies and provision of early intervention. The early intervention programme provides timely and tailored support to employees and includes provision of short-term treatment (physical or psychological), access to EAP support, workplace rehabilitation providers, workplace assessments and fitness for duty medical assessments.

Comcare as part of the early intervention programme provides workstation assessments for all new employees upon commencement with 136 conducted in 2015–16. During 2015–16, 89 assessments were conducted for existing employees reporting pain or discomfort as a prevention strategy.

In 2015–16, Comcare along with nine agencies, established a sub-committee to the Deputy Secretaries  Working Group aimed at reducing workers’ compensation premiums. Comcare piloted  a mandatory early intervention for managers training course as part of this initiative. Comcare has a 72 per cent attendance rate for managers at this course in 2015–16.

Comcare’s early intervention programme, including the training course and new starter workstation assessments has been assessed as the likely cause for the reduction in workers’ compensation claims in 2015–16.

Workers’ compensation claims

In total, there were two workers’ compensation claims for Comcare employees accepted in 2015–16. This is an 85 per cent decrease from the 13 accepted claims in 2014–15. The average weeks lost time decreased from 17.4 weeks in 2014–15 to 3.7 weeks in 2015–16.  The table below compares Comcare’s claim performance, average claim cost and lost time with the ‘All Australian Government’ average in the financial years 2013–14 to 2015–16.

Table 24: Comcare workers’ compensation claim performance—as at 30 June 2016

Claims performance 2013–142014–152015–16
Submitted claims—All Comcare1 18 15 5
Accepted claims—All Comcare 13 13 2
Total likely future cost—All Comcare $734 647 $2 679 415 $192 384
Average likely future cost—All Comcare $56 511 $223 285 $192 384
Average likely future cost—Australian Government $71 409 $79 415 $109 046
Average cost to date—All Comcare $43 263 $61 759 $18 156
Average cost to date—Australian Government $42 052 $33 283 $20 359
Total weeks lost—All Comcare 194 303 7
Average weeks lost—All Comcare 14.9 27.6 3.7
Average weeks lost—Australian Government 25.4 17.9 11.3

1 Submitted indicates claims registered in the financial year period.