Go to top of page

Encouraging work health and safety

We are committed to maintaining a productive and safe work environment and meeting our obligations under the WHS Act. Senior managers, supervisors, Health and Safety Representatives, the Health and Safety Committee, and all staff worked cooperatively to ensure that WHS risks were effectively managed.

Initiatives and outcomes

We continued to focus on prevention strategies. We introduced initiatives to raise knowledge and capabilities in managing WHS. Table 5.8 provides a summary of key WHS activities.

Table 5.8: Key WHS initiatives and staff participation, 2019–20



Mini induction

All staff participate in a face-to-face mini induction within the first two weeks of commencement. This initiative includes an overview of WHS management and support services.

Workstation assessments

All staff upon commencement (or request) are provided with a workstation assessment to mitigate the risk of ergonomic injury.

Mental health e-learning programs

Online learning modules include subjects such as managing mental health risks, mental health awareness and respectful workplaces.

Work Health and Safety (e-learning module)

78% of staff have completed this module.

Work Health and Safety for managers (e-learning module)

54% of managers have completed this module.

Wellbeing support page

This intranet page provides details of support services to assist all staff.

Executive Level 1 and Executive Level 2 Leadership Program

Modules raise awareness and capability about WHS, resilience and mental health. More than 140 EL staff participated in this program.

Resilience/Mental Health Training

This program is designed to raise awareness and educate staff on how to recognise and implement strategies to support their mental health during times of change or crisis. More than 100 staff participated in this program.

Mental Health Strategy

We continued to deliver programs associated with this strategy.

Mental Health Week and R U OK Day

All staff were given access to information relating to mental health and watch an episode of Australian Story.

Workplace harassment contact officers

We maintained a network of officers.

White Ribbon Australia

We maintained accreditation with White Ribbon Australia and provided training to staff and managers relating to family and domestic violence.

Employee Assistance Program

Average staff utilisation rate was 8%.

Flu vaccinations

246 vaccinations were administered to 49% of total active staff and contractors.

Discounted gym membership

123 staff are current members.

Yoga and meditation

These programs are managed by staff.

Cultural appreciation

One course was provided.

Cultural awareness (e-learning module)

79% of staff have completed this module.

Rehabilitation management system self assessment

As the AIHW is considered a ‘low-risk’ agency, consistent with Comcare’s Guidelines for Rehabilitation Authorities 2012, an annual audit was not required. We continued to meet the applicable criteria of the rehabilitation management system and conform with the guidelines.

Incidents and compensation

Two compensation claims were lodged with Comcare in 2019–20, with one accepted. Table 5.9 shows an overview of claims lodged since 2016–17.

Table 5.9: Compensation claims lodged with Comcare, 2016–17 to 2019–20


Claims lodged

Claims accepted













Notifiable incidents and investigations

Under the WHS Act, we are required to notify Comcare when incidents occur that involve the death of a person, a serious injury or illness, or a dangerous incident.

One notifiable incident occurred and was reported to Comcare.

Workplace inspections, Comcare investigations and Comcare audits

Our Health and Safety Representatives and staff responsible for facilities carried out 4 workplace inspections during 2019–20. These inspections occurred about a fortnight before Health and Safety Committee meetings to enable findings and recommendations to be considered and actioned. Issues notified were minor, such as the removal of trip hazards, an audit of fire and safety equipment, and environmental measures, such as adjustments to the air conditioning and assessment of new work environments.

No investigations by Comcare were conducted in 2019–20 and no directions, notices, offences or penalties were served under the WHS Act.

Our response to the bushfire crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic

Air quality due to bushfires

During the bushfires that occurred between December 2019 and February 2020, heavy smoke fell across AIHW office locations in Canberra and Sydney. To ensure the safety of staff during this period, we made adjustments to air-conditioning systems to eliminate drawing air and smoke into offices. Temperature controlled automatic windows were also disabled and air quality monitors purchased to ensure the air quality was within a safe range. Due to smoke, a small number of staff experienced irritations to their eyes, nausea and breathing difficulties.

These staff members returned to their homes or obtained medical assistance. In recognition of the significant impact of these bushfires, we proactively promoted accessibility to the Employee Assistance Program, provided regular updates in relation to emergency warnings and shared resources to assist staff support co-workers, family and friends through this challenging time.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In response to the global pandemic, the AIHW was guided by advice relating to local restrictions provided by the Australian Government, the Department of Health, Safe Work Australia, the APS Commission and state and territory governments.

To support the wellbeing of our people, we established flexible work arrangements for all staff, which included the introduction of new technologies to support working-from-home arrangements. In March 2020, approximately 75% of staff began working from home in some capacity. Many of the staff who remained working in an AIHW office worked on a roster designed to reduce the number of staff in the office at any one time. Due to the volume of COVID-19 cases within New South Wales, the AIHW closed its Sydney office on 23 March. A small number of staff have resumed working from this location.

As at 30 June 2020, 342 (67%) of our active staff, had formal arrangements to work from home in some capacity. To support ergonomic health and safety, staff were provided access to use their work-based equipment at home. Home workstation assessments were undertaken for staff.

In May 2020, we conducted a pulse survey to assess how staff were coping with the changes made to their working environment since March. Results of the survey are in COVID-19 response.

In line with the government’s 3-stage approach to relaxing restrictions in June, the AIHW began a voluntary, gradual return of staff working at our offices. Stage 1 saw the gradual return of up to 50% of staff during June. To ensure the health and safety of staff working from, or returning to, an AIHW office, the AIHW implemented a number of safety measures based on government and health advice, which included:

  • promoting physical distancing and maintaining strong personal hygiene
  • limiting the number of people who can occupy meeting rooms
  • providing antibacterial hand gel and spray in all communal areas and meeting rooms
  • implementating additional professional cleaning
  • replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual, teleconferences or videoconferences.

We also continued to promote the Employee Assistance Program and share resources and information to support all staff to remain COVID safe.