Online version of the 2013-14 Department of Health Annual Report

3.6: Work Health and Safety

The Department of Health is committed to providing workplaces that support and safeguard the health, wellbeing and safety of our people

Page last updated: 31 October 2014

The Department acknowledges its responsibilities under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 to ensure health and safety at work, and to assist ill and injured workers. One of the five objectives of the Department’s Enterprise Agreement is to maintain a strong commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of Staff.

The Department’s work health and safety policies and procedures adopt best practice in health and safety management, in order to reduce the social and financial cost of occupational injury and illness, and improve business performance. The Department has continued the programme of work started in 2012-13 to make improvements to our WHS Management System and to ensure compliance with the WHS Act. This includes the review and implementation of safety policies and procedures to ensure that all workers are aware of their health and safety responsibilities.

Implemented in December 2013, the Department’s Rehabilitation Management System provides a framework for minimising the incidence and severity of injury and disease (illness) at work, through early intervention programmes to support injured or ill employees remain at work, and rehabilitation to assist with the timely, safe, enduring and cost effective return to work for employees who are injured or ill.

Initiatives taken during the year to ensure health, safety and welfare of workers who carry out work for the Department

Outcomes this year included:

  • release of a new Work Health and Safety Framework, in March 2014, which outlines the Department’s approach to eliminating and minimising work health and safety hazards and risks;
  • release of a new Rehabilitation Management System in December 2013, which outlines the Department’s approach to early intervention and rehabilitation for injured and/or ill employees;
  • a review of the work group structure and health and safety representation across the Department; and
  • the implementation of information and guidance including:
    • Quick Reference Guide: Stress and Fatigue in the Workplace; and
    • Organisational Change – Keeping Health and Safety First in Mind

The Department’s Health and Life Strategy 2011-2015 encourages a culture that focuses on the health and wellbeing of staff and achieving an appropriate balance between work and personal life. The aim is to:

  • maintain a safe and healthy workplace;
  • promote individual health and wellbeing;
  • promote a positive work environment;
  • support work/life balance;
  • support our diverse workforce; and
  • support the community.

A range of initiatives and programmes operating at the individual employee and organisational level are made available to staff, examples include:

  • asthma friendly workplace;
  • corporate gym membership;
  • eyesight testing;
  • family care assistance;
  • flu vaccinations;
  • Hartley cycle challenge;
  • health promotion seminars and activities;
  • respect campaign and information sessions;
  • Ride to Work group; and
  • smoke free workplace policy.

The Improving Wellness and Motivation in the Workplace: Reducing Unplanned Leave initiative expresses the Department’s commitment to:

  • the creation, promotion and ongoing maintenance of a safe and healthy working environment;
  • encouraging productive working relationships; and
  • promoting and encouraging behaviours in staff and managers to assist in the management and reduction of unscheduled absence levels within the Department.

This initiative complements existing Departmental strategies and action plans promoting a positive work environment, preventing illness and injury, optimising performance and managing workloads and work/life balance.

Health and safety outcomes (including the impact on injury rates of workers) achieved as a result of initiatives

2014 Australia Day Awards Help our stars shine The Rehabilitation Management System has strengthened the Department’s commitment to provide early intervention and timely support for employees experiencing impairment or incapacity and the Department’s rehabilitation coordinators play a leading role in managing individual rehabilitation programmes and fostering understanding about the Department’s return to work approach.

Each year, the Department recognises the contribution of staff by presenting Australia Day Achievement Awards. In 2014, the Work Environment Support Team received an Australia Day Achievement Award in recognition of their efforts in contributing to the development and implementation of the Department’s Rehabilitation Management System.

The Department achieved a slight reduction in its workers’ compensation claim rate with 30 accepted claims in 2013-14, compared to 35 accepted claims in 2012-13.

Statistics of any notifiable incidents of which the Department became aware of during the year that arose out of the conduct of business or undertakings by the Department

During 2013-14 there were no serious injuries, illnesses or dangerous incidents reported to Comcare in respect to the Department’s statutory obligation in Section 35 of the WHS Act.

Any investigations conducted during the year that relate to businesses or undertakings conducted by the Department, including details of all notices given to the Department during the year under Part 10 of the WHS Act

Three liaison inspections were undertaken during 2013-14; two were as a result of work health safety complaints received and one was initiated by Comcare to engage proactively with Departments which were impacted by the Administrative Arrangements Order.

No work health and safety compliance issues were identified as a result of the two complaints. Recommendations included a review of the training, information and guidance made available to all managers, supervisors and workers with respect to:

  • work health and safety obligations and responsibilities;
  • the workplace complaints process; and
  • incident investigation and psychological risk management.

The Department’s approach to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of staff during recent Machinery of Government changes and the Department’s restructure, was described by Comcare in their report, as competent and sincere.

No directions, notices or enforceable undertakings under the WHS Act were served on the Department during the year.