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Workplace health and safety

The ABS is committed to fostering a proactive and collaborative approach to the management of work health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace. Specialist teams of work health and safety (WHS) advisors and rehabilitation specialists focus on wellbeing at work, preventing injury and illness, early intervention if injury or illness occurs, and rehabilitation and return to work programs.

The ABS’ specialist teams work alongside the ABS People Committee, and multiple ABS Health and Safety Committees, to design and implement health and wellbeing initiatives and regulate WHS policy and guidelines. A significant achievement in 2018–19 was the 68% reduction in workers’ compensation premium costs (Table 7.9). The reduced premium rate was achieved through proactive and person-centred services for maintaining employee health at work, early return to work, and durable return to work.

Workplace health and safety regulation

There are a number of specific WHS roles in the ABS filled by trained staff. These include First Aid Officers, Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and wardens. These positions have remained occupied with appropriately skilled and trained ABS employees over the period 2018–19.

The ABS has one national, one field-based and eight site-based Health and Safety Committees. These committees met quarterly as required in 2018–19, and in addition to business as usual items, consulted on and finalised a new Work Health and Safety Statement of Commitment.

Provisional Improvement Notices, investigations and inspections

There were no Provisional Improvement Notices (PINs) issued by Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act). Further, there were no improvement notices issued by Comcare (the regulator) under the WHS Act during the period.

Under the WHS Act, the ABS is required to report all ‘notifiable incidents’ that occur in the course of conducting ABS business. A notifiable incident is defined as: a death of a person, a serious illness or injury, or a dangerous incident. The ABS reported one notifiable incident in the period and one safety investigation completed.

The ABS has worked collaboratively with Comcare implementing improved practices to reduce the risk of workplace injury and to reduce workers’ compensation claim numbers and duration. A Comcare verification inspection was finalised.

Rehabilitation and workers' compensation

The ABS Comcare premium rate for 2018–19 was 0.74% of total salary (excluding GST) (Table 7.9). The 2018–19 premium figure represents a 68% reduction from 2017–18.

Table 7.9: Comcare workers’ compensation premium rate, 2014-15 to 2018-19

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

2017-18

2018-19

ABS premium rate (percentage of total salary)

2.46

2.21

2.2

1.59

0.74

Overall scheme premium rate

1.93

1.85

1.72

1.23

0.85

The ABS Rehabilitation Management System (RMS) is the framework for achieving rehabilitation objectives and compliance with the Comcare scheme. The RMS has been the subject of continuous improvement, with the planned corrective action closed early in 2019. Further to this, the internal audit program returned a 95% compliance result.

Responsive management of rehabilitation has seen a high rate of application of Early Intervention (EI) strategies in 42 cases in order to manage the risk of compensation liability. Outside this, the ABS has had five claims for workers’ compensation accepted by Comcare with a date of injury occurring during the 2018–19 financial year. An additional three claims made by ABS employees were disallowed by Comcare.

Of the claims where liability was accepted by the insurer (Comcare), there were three injury claims (2 lodged by ABS interviewers and one by an office-based employee) and two disease claims (one ABS interviewer and one office-based employee).

Attendance management

In 2018–19, the average number of days of unscheduled absence per full-time equivalent (FTE) was 12 days (Table 7.10), a slight decrease from 2017–18.

Table 7.10: Unscheduled absence: days per FTE, 2016-17 to 2018-19 (a)(b)

2016-17

2017-18

2018-19

ABS

11.8

12.3

12

Australian Government (Large Agency) median

12.3

12.5

n/a (c)

(a) Excludes interviewers, non-ongoing Census Data Processing Centre staff, and Census field staff.

(b) Totals do not include workers compensation.

(c) The Australian Government (Large Agency) median for 2018–19 was not available at the time of preparing this report.