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Scheme performance - Overview

The Comcare scheme

Our role is to support participation and productivity through safe and healthy workplaces. We also aim to minimise the impact of harm in workplaces covered by Comcare.

We administer the Commonwealth's statutory framework for rehabilitation and workers' compensation, the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act), and we are the national work health and safety regulator under the federal Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).

Comcare also:

Explore more detailed work health and safety and workers’ compensation statistics

Compare performance information across Australia and New Zealand

Animations

Scheme coverage

The Comcare scheme encompasses two separate jurisdictions, each delivering consistent outcomes to a diverse range of employees.

The Workers’ Compensation scheme covers:

  • employees of Australian Government agencies and authorities
  • employees of national companies licensed by the SRCC (including ACT Government)
  • individuals making claims against the Commonwealth for asbestos-related conditions.

The Work Health and Safety scheme covers:

  • employees of Australian Government agencies and authorities
  • employees of some national companies licensed by the SRCC
  • employees of private companies with majority Commonwealth ownership
  • members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) while not at war (including reservists and cadets).

The ACT Government became a self-insured licensee on 1 March 2019. Its workers’ compensation outcomes now contribute to those of the self-insured licensee sector.

Licensees are national employers who have been granted a self-insurance licence for workers' compensation by the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission. All licensees are covered under the SRC Act. Most are covered also under the WHS Act.

Full time equivalent employees covered under the SRC Act (FYTD as at 31 Mar 2020)
Proportion of total Australian workforce by industry type (top 4)
Public administration and safety
Financial and insurance services Professional, Scientific and Technical
Transport, postal and warehousing
Information, media and telecommunications
FYTD as at 31 Mar 2020
% Australian industry (2018-19)
Public administration and safety
Financial and insurance services Professional, Scientific and Technical
Transport, postal and warehousing
Information, media and telecommunications

Prevention

Comcare works with employers, employees and other stakeholders to improve work health, prevention, safety and rehabilitation outcomes. Our aim is to make workplaces safer and healthier through prevention of injury and effective compliance.

The most recent comparative performance data shows that Comcare has the lowest injury incidence and frequency rates of any jurisdiction.

We continue to work towards becoming a zero fatality scheme—no workplace death is ever acceptable.

Comcare also improves work health and safety outcomes including programs to encourage early intervention after workplace injury and to promote the health benefits of work.

Workplace incidents

Persons conducting a business or undertaking are required to notify Comcare of incidents that result in the death, serious injury or illness of a person, or that are dangerous in nature. The WHS Act defines which events are notifiable.

Has an injury, illness or dangerous incident occurred at your workplace? If so, you may be legally required to notify Comcare about what has happened.

In 2018–19, Comcare was notified of 1723 incidents. Of these, 1358 were assessed as notifiable under the WHS Act.
Dangerous
incident
Serious injury or illness
Fatalities

The most prevalent incident types (2018-19)

Contact with electricity
Single contact with chemical or substance
Being hit by falling objects
Vehicle incident

Regulatory response

Comcare has a compliance and enforcement role covering both work health and safety and workplace rehabilitation regulation. This role combines proactive and reactive elements. Comcare’s regulatory activities may be undertaken in response to workplace incidents and notifications, but they may also be triggered by other means such as complaints or allegations, media articles, research and reports, or Comcare’s analysis of workplace risks and hazards.

Comcare's Compliance and Enforcement Policy details our regulatory approach.

Breakdown of regulatory activities (2018–19)
Total Incidents and Concerns Reported
Inspectorate Compliance Enforcement Activities
Statutory Notices Issued
Prosecutions Commenced

Safety systems

Comcare conducts an annual program of work health and safety and rehabilitation management system audits to identify positive aspects of the systems in place and highlight any deficiencies that need to be addressed.

Our safety system audits use a range of audit tools and templates.

In addition, in 2018–19 Comcare made over 6,000 authorisation and approval decisions to ensure high risk work activities are only undertaken after the suitability of persons, things or processes have been assessed.

Hazardous chemicals authorisations
High risk plant registrations
High risk work licenses

Enforcement activity

Comcare applies a range of compliance tools prior to using enforcement options. Some compliance tools are backed by legislated enforcement options, and Comcare uses these options when necessary and appropriate.

On 22 July 2015 Linfox Australia Pty Ltd workers were involved in towing a damaged Bushmaster (armoured vehicle) to a recovery truck at the Department of Defence’s Damascus Barracks, Queensland. The Bushmaster rolled forward, and a worker was crushed between the vehicle and a tow motor, resulting in serious injuries.

Linfox Australia pleaded guilty to four (4) counts of failing in its duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth). On 11 October 2018, Linfox Australia was convicted and fined $200,000 in the Brisbane Magistrates Court.

On 26 July 2013 at the Urban Superway worksite on South Road, Angle Park, South Australia, workers were working under lights at a yard where sections of road bridge were being loaded onto trucks using two large portal cranes. One of the cranes collided with an elevated work platform, pushing the platform’s basket under the adjacent crane. The worker operating the platform was unable to climb out of the basket. He suffered leg and back injuries.

John Holland Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to three (3) counts of failing in its duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth). On 29 May 2017, John Holland was convicted and fined $281,250 in the Magistrates Court of South Australia in Adelaide.

On 25 July 2013 there was a chemical fire at the Cleanaway Operations Pty Ltd (formerly Transpacific Industries) Wingfield Chemical Waste Process Plant near Port Adelaide.

Workers were conducting Cleanaway’s first production-scale trial to distil a new industrial solvent from a chemical mixture. A fire emerged from the distillation still after it was opened, injuring a nearby worker.

Cleanaway pleaded guilty to one (1) count of failing in its duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth). On 19 April 2017, Cleanaway was convicted and fined $650 000 in the District Court of South Australia.

On 15 June 2012 at Urban Superway Project site, Angle Park, South Australia, workers were installing a fibrous cement storm water pipe when a portion broke. It fell 14.5 meters hitting two cars below which had stopped at traffic lights, smashing the windscreen of one vehicle. The section of pipe that fell weighed between 36 and 48 kilograms.

John Holland Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to two (2) counts of failing in its duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth). On 3 June 2016, John Holland was convicted and fined $130,000 in the Magistrates Court of South Australia in Adelaide. This was the first criminal prosecution conducted under the Commonwealth WHS Act.

Claims

Comcare works in partnership with employers and others on prevention, early intervention and improving recovery and return to work outcomes. These efforts are seeing good results and are helping to make workplaces safer.

Comparative data shows that the Comcare scheme has fewer workplace injuries and better return to work outcomes for injured employees than any other Australian scheme.

Accepted claims rate (per 1000 FTE)

Over the past five years the number of new claims received and accepted in the Comcare scheme has been trending down.

Did you know you can lodge claim forms online?

See how your organisation compares.

Get more detailed claims data.

By type, cause and body part (FYTD as at 31 March 2020)

Psychological injuries are shown to lead to employees having more time off work and higher claim costs. Comcare is a signatory to the Health Benefits of Good Work, a Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP)-hosted program.

Type of claim
Injury
Disease
Psychological
Cause of claim (top 5)
Cause of claim (top 4)
Body stressing
Falls, trips and slips of a person
Being hit by moving objects
Vehicle incidents and other
Mental stress

Body part injured (top 4)

Psychological
Shoulder
Elbow
Lower back
Ankle
Wrist
Fingers
Knee
Ear

Time off work (compensated)

Evidence shows that after spending 20 days off work, an employee has a 70 per cent chance of ever returning to work. After 70 days, the likelihood of returning to work drops to just 35 per cent. Read information for employers on rehabilitation.

Number of weeks off work
(FYTD as at 31 March 2020)
Median
Average
Time off work durations (FYTD as at 31 March 2020)

Improving return to work outcomes remains the key challenge in the scheme. Comcare works in collaboration with employers to ensure employees receive early and appropriate treatment services and an effective rehabilitation program. Comcare also works with employers to identify flexible arrangements to maximise an employee's capacity for work. The National Return to Work Strategy 2020-2030 sets an ambitious 10-year action plan to improve return to work outcomes for workers across Australia. Comcare is working with other stakeholders to minimise the impact of work-related injury and illness and to enable workers to have a timely, safe and durable return to work.

4 weeks
13 weeks
26 weeks
52 weeks
104 weeks

Costs

In recent years in the Comcare scheme, the length of time that ill and injured employees are away from their work has increased and psychological injury costs have risen. Comcare is continuing to work with scheme participants to achieve a sustainable and better practice scheme resulting in decreasing claims costs paid over the past four years.

If you are an employer, ask your Comcare account manager about how you can impact on your organisation’s claims costs, or use our Customer Information System.

Total claims costs

Claims costs by type (FYTD as at 31 March 2020)

Time off work (compensated)
Medical
Legal
Other costs
Rehabilitation services

Average cost paid per claim (FYTD as at 31 March 2020)

Reports the average paid cost per active claim (claim that received a payment in the reporting period).

Cost per claim
Time off work (compensated) claims
Medical only claims

Reviews

The Comcare scheme provides both informal and formal avenues to review a decision about workers’ compensation. Dispute resolution through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is currently experiencing significant delays. Informal mechanisms offer speedier resolution.
Decision disputed and upheld (FYTD as at 31 March 2020)
All Paid Claims
Reconsideration rate
Reconsideration
affirmation rate
Appealed
to AAT
AAT decisions
affirmation rate

Recent cases

Comcare and the SRCC monitor Court and Administrative Appeals Tribunal proceedings concerning the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988. The SRCC has a policy on reporting potentially scheme significant matters.
What is administrative action taken ‘in respect of the employee’s employment’?

Full Federal Court — [2018] FCAFC 26 (26 April 2018)

Tribunal — [2017] AATA 1228 (8 August 2017)

The employee claimed compensation for a psychological condition after his employer transferred him under a ‘regular mobility process’ (RMP) policy. The RMP policy provided that employees could be moved between divisions after they had worked in one division for over three years.

Comcare denied liability because the transfer under the RMP policy was a ‘reasonable administrative action taken in a reasonable manner’ (RAA) in respect of the employee’s employment. The Tribunal set aside Comcare’s decision, finding that the transfer was not an RAA because the RMP Policy applied to all employees and was not directed specifically to the employee.

Comcare’s appeal to the Full Federal Court was allowed. The Full Court found the transfer was administrative action because:
  • it was not part of the employee’s ordinary work duties;
  • it was not a direction about the employee’s duties or how to perform those duties;
  • even though the RMP Policy applied to all employees, the transfer decision was directed specifically to the employee and his employment.
What constitutes ‘out of, or in the course of employment’?

Tribunal — [2018] AATA 670 (26 March 2018)

The employee suffered a physical injury while playing netball at the Department of Human Services (now Services Australia) Games, held over a weekend.

Comcare denied liability because the injury did not arise out of, or in the course of, his employment. While the employer promoted the games, participation was voluntary and participants had to arrange their own travel and accommodation.

The Tribunal affirmed Comcare’s decision. The Tribunal found:
  • The employee was not deemed to be in the course of employment because a weekend away is not being ‘temporarily absent’ from work at the direction or request of the employer (s 6(1)(c)).
  • Because the injury occurred on a weekend, there needed to be a closer association with employment before the injury could be compensable. The Tribunal stated that this may have been satisfied if the employer directed or requested that the employee attend the games. It was not sufficient that the employee was induced or encouraged to attend.

Financial performance

The Comcare scheme has seen significant improvement in financial performance and has shown strong performance in comparison to other schemes. Claim frequency is reducing, claim duration after injury is beginning to improve and premium rates are falling. These trends are having a very positive impact on the financial position of the premium scheme.

Cost
Claim frequency
Claim duration

Premium rate

Scheme notional rate

The scheme notional premium rate proportions the premium rate for the Australain Government and licensees by FTE.

The scheme notional premium rate proportions the premium rate for government sector and licensees by FTE.

Comcare continues to focus on strategic projects targeting return to work outcomes, efficient and effective claims management processes, and risk based file reviews. These have contributed to a significant reduction in premium claims costs and outstanding claims liabilities.

Use our premium calculation tool to gain a better understanding of how investment today may impact future premiums.

See how your organisation compares.

Funding ratio (Australian Government sector only)

The percentage of premium related total assets to premium related total liabilities.

The Comcare insured scheme is fully funded. Recovery of the funding position for the scheme, is the result of reductions in liabilities from reductions in claims received, accepted and improved claims management operations. Restoration of the scheme's funding position has been achieved three years ahead of target.

Administration cost ratio (Australian Government only)

Claims administration costs as a proportion of total scheme expenditure.

Comcare aims to achieve an administration cost ratio of 20 per cent or less, measured by Safe Work Australia’s comparative monitoring methodology, to ensure cost effective management of the fund.

Summary

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Page last reviewed: 15 December 2019
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Comcare
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 05 Jul 2020

https://www.comcare.gov.au/scheme-legislation/scheme-performance/overview