Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004
ISSN 1441 9335
This report is presented in accordance with the requirements of section 74 of the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991.
- Occupational health and safety initiatives
- Occupational health and safety accident or incident reporting
- Compensation and rehabilitation
The Department continues to maintain a strong commitment to the health, safety and welfare of its staff and any other persons at or near work sites through the promotion of its health, safety and welfare programmes.
The Department's Occupational Health and Safety Committee continues to meet regularly to address a wide range of issues. There are also occupational health and safety committees in each of the mainland national parks and workplaces, which meet regularly to address local issues.
Comcare conducted a review of the Department's Planned Investigation Programme, which was undertaken in 2000. A number of recommendations, policies and procedures have since been implemented. Comcare has been invited back to the Department to review implementation.
A new departmental policy and agreement on occupational health and safety is currently being negotiated with the relevant unions.
Specific programme activities during 2003-04 included:
- signing a new two-year contract to provide staff and their families with an Employees Assistance Programme with Davidson Trahaire Corpsych, the successful tenderer;
- conducting regular orientation sessions for new staff including information on occupational health and safety legislation, responsibilities and procedures;
- continuing ongoing ergonomic and work station assessments as part of the Department's policy of providing a safe workplace - there were a total of 188 assessments conducted in-house and by external occupational therapists;
- reimbursing staff for eyesight testing relating to use of screen-based equipment, and reimbursing field staff for skin cancer and hearing loss screening;
- offering ongoing training for first aid officers and health and safety representatives;
- maintaining prevention programmes to address occupational overuse syndrome and stress; and
- reviewing a number of occupational health and safety management systems throughout the year.
Specific initiatives during 2003-04 included:
- conducting, through external consultants, a risk assessment of work undertaken by staff within the Canberra-based elements of the Department (excluding the Australian National Botanic Gardens);
- beginning to develop an online occupational health and safety reporting system, which records and reports on incidents, accidents, hazards, risks, workers' compensation and rehabilitation case management;
- commencing negotiations with an external occupational health and safety training provider to facilitate the introduction of online occupational health and safety training for staff, covering legislative obligations, legal principles, and the roles and responsibilities of the employer and employees;
- starting to negotiate for the purchase and installation of an occupational health and safety information management and reference system based on AS 4801: Occupational health and safety management systems - specification with guidelines for users;
- reviewing and updating occupational health and safety policies and procedures to reflect better practices and legislative changes; and
- revising the occupational health and safety risk assessment methodology and integrating it into the general day-to-day activities of staff.
Considerable progress has been made towards enhancing the Australian Antarctic Division's safety management system. A safety management system framework consisting of seven major elements and 'organisational level' policy documents has been developed. Policy documents have been published and feedback obtained for three of the seven elements. The next stage of the roll out, which commenced with the Australian Antarctic Division's Operations Branch, will look at developing section safety plans for implementing local policies and procedures to meet the divisions overall occupational health and safety policy requirements.
Formal review processes (short-term, ongoing and long-term) will then be instituted to ensure effectiveness, applicability to the division's operating environment and continuous improvement.
The Australian Antarctic Division's occupational health and safety committee structure continues to be very active with meetings held every three months. A recent election was held after a call for new health and safety representatives attracted too many candidates. Training has been organised for the new representatives and refresher courses for those who continue in the role.
During 2003-04, the Canberra-based programmes reported 26 incidents or accidents under section 68 of the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991. Additionally, Parks Australia reported 35 accidents or incidents, and the Australian Antarctic Division reported 11 accidents or incidents under section 68 of the Act.
Comcare conducted one investigation within the Australian Antarctic Division. An investigation conducted by Comcare, and reported in last year's annual report, is under review by Comcare. One internal investigation report was requested by Comcare and supplied by the Department.
There were no matters to report under section 30, 45, 46 or 47 of the Act.
Under its rehabilitation policy and guidelines, the Department continued to support injured and ill employees and provided an early return to work programme. During 2003-04, there were 12 return to work plans in place for injured staff, and five return to work plans ceased during this period. Within the Australian Antarctic Division, 19 new workers' compensation claims were made and 10 existing and ongoing claims remain open.