Annual Report 2003-2004

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Appendix 3

Occupational health and safety

Information in this appendix is provided in accordance with Section 74 of the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991 (the Act).

The department's occupational health and safety policy

The department attaches a high priority to the wellbeing of its employees and aims to improve work practices and foster attitudes which sustain healthy and safe work environments. To help achieve this, a revised two-year Employer/Employee OHS Agreement was signed on 9 September 2003. The agreement was negotiated between management, staff and union representatives and defines the structural framework within which OHS is managed in the department.

The departmental Workplace Relations Committee (WRC) OHS Sub-Committee meets every three months. It represents the collective interests of the employer, employees, contractors, clients and visitors. All business decisions are referred to the WRC for endorsement and/or acknowledgement. OHS forums also operate in state and territory offices and at our overseas posts to facilitate cooperation on OHS matters between management and employees and to help disseminate health and safety information.

In Australia, there are 31 designated work groups with, at present, 30 elected or nominated health and safety representatives. Each overseas post is also a designated work group.

The OHS/rehabilitation case manager is located in the department's Staffing Branch. A key purpose of the position is to provide policy and procedural advice to senior management with a view to ensuring the department's OHS management systems comply with its obligations under the Act. Close liaison is maintained with the Medical Unit, the departmental Counsellor, personnel and property managers and information technology staff to promote a safe and healthy workplace. Regular contact is also maintained with staff responsible for OHS at overseas posts.

The potential Comcare client group includes all departmental Australian Public Service employees located in Australia and overseas and about half of locally engaged staff at overseas posts. The case manager is also available to help staff not covered by Comcare; this includes locally engaged staff covered under overseas insurance agreements and contract employees.

Measures taken during the year to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of employees and contractors

During the year, 43 OHS incidents were reported to the OHS/rehabilitation case manager, none of which resulted in serious personal injury. Remedial action was undertaken to eliminate or minimise recurrences where possible. A health surveillance program was implemented for employees exposed to asbestos at our embassy in Rangoon.

In consultation with Comcare Australia, training modules on OHS and workers' compensation and rehabilitation were developed and incorporated into mandatory management courses for newly appointed SES and staff at each APS level. Briefings were also provided to recently recruited employees and staff proceeding to or returning from overseas postings, including Heads of Mission/Post.

In response to requests from employees experiencing discomfort at their workstations, the OHS/rehabilitation case manager arranged 105 workstation assessments by external ergonomic consultants. A number of in-house health promotion activities were conducted by professionally qualified consultants, including fitness classes and a flu vaccination program. Health and safety awareness messages were communicated throughout Australia and overseas by bulletins on the department's intranet. Other measures taken during the year to ensure the welfare of employees included employer-subsidised eyesight testing for screen-based work and first aid and fire warden training.

Reporting requirements under the Act

Two potentially dangerous occurrences related to asbestos removal were reported to Comcare under section 68 of the Act. No serious accidents occurred.

No directions were given to the department under section 45.

No notices were issued under section 29, section 46 or section 47.

No investigations were conducted.

Table 28. Occupational health and safety statistics*
2001–02 2002–03 2003–04
Total departmental staff covered by Comcare (includes employees located in Australia, Australia-based staff overseas and, where applicable, locally engaged staff) 2 673 2 518 2 464
Number of claims accepted by Comcare, comprising: 24 20 16
— back injuries 1 2 4
— sprains and strains, excluding backs 10 8 2
— occupational overuse injuries 6 4 6
— other 7 6 4
Average cost of compensation claims to date $8 852.07 $10 488.66 $3 871.97
Departmental premium for Comcare coverage (as a percentage of total departmental wages and salaries) 0.46 0.48 0.65

* Based on customer information data compiled by Comcare for all years shown as at 30 June 2004; covers cost of sick leave taken and all hospital/medical/pharmaceutical costs associated with claims made in each financial year.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2003–2004
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