In most Australian states, firefighters who are diagnosed of suffering with particular types of cancer are automatically “deemed” to have developed the condition by reason of their job. Unfortunately and tragically this legislation is not currently in place in Victoria, even though there is increased community support for such recognition.
The Fair Work Commission has found an injured worker who was falsely accused of (workcover) fraud and dishonesty in relation to a WorkCover claim was unfairly dismissed from the company he worked at for more than 20 years. This case highlights again the “witch-hunt” culture of so many employers against injured workers.
You may recall the unfortunate story of injured worker Soula, who was injured “below the belt” when a gym ball she sat on whilst working exploded, suffering an “invisible” but extremely painful injury called a pudendal nerve injury. Soula’s claim for workers compensation in Victoria was a real nightmare, she endured horrendous IMEs, her legitimate benefits were not approved and she was also put on the most outrageous form of surveillance.
We have noticed a that a few highly offensive comments have recently been posted on our site, which we believe we need to urgently bring to your attention in order to protect you (the offending commentators) and – most importantly- in order to safeguard aworkcovervictimsdiary’s serioulsy injured site owners from being prosecuted (!)- as these comments crossed way over the boundaries over what is legal to post (publish) and are well into the realm of criminal contempt of court.
You may have heard, through the grapevine (comment section), that workcovervictimsdiary.com was, again, threatened with a most unfounded and utterly pathetic lawsuit for “defamation” by an “independent doctor“, a psychiatrist no less! The most unfounded and intimidating “defamation” allegation referred to two anonymously posted comments by two injured workers-dating back almost one year ago!!! – who had been, unfortunately, “assessed” by this IME psychiatrist and who did not even refer to this “doctor’s” full name, location nor identifiable features! The IME and his/her lawyer were not even capable of giving us an exact date of when the alleged “offensive” comments were published, and not even a link to these”offenses”.
This is quite an amazing but telling show of ignorance by the O’Farrell Goverment: The health of workers is no concern just as long as wealthy gamblers are happy. This government clealy puts profits above people – they’ve done it with Workers Compensation laws and this just confirms their real agenda.
Date: August 17 2012
On the day when the High Court hands down its decision on plain packaging, we have the state government spinelessly giving in to James Packer and his demand to have the high rollers room a smoking palace (”Health minister’s smoking gamble”, smh.com.au, August 16).
Those ”volunteers” should be asking, if they find themselves with cancer later on in life, will they be entitled to workers compensation? After all, the casino could say they knew the risks. With this cave-in, I take it the six-star hotel is a certainty.
Again we see profit put before people’s lives. By banning smoking the NSW government could be leading the way in protecting workers’ health, not protecting casino profits.
Robert Pallister Punchbowl
The New South Wales Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, has defended the state government’s endorsement of smoking in the high-roller room at Sydney’s Star casino, but left open the door for a ban in the future.
Legislation to ban smoking in outdoor areas such as bus stops and playgrounds passed NSW Parliament last night, but the O’Farrell government refused to support an amendment to ban smoking at the Star’s high-roller room.
Responding to criticism this morning, Mrs Skinner said smoking bans have been “incremental” in NSW.
“I can remember back in the early ’90s when we first started introducing these bans with the banning of smoking in public buildings,” she told ABC local radio.
“We’ve moved gradually, step by step, until this point where we have this groundbreaking legislation. It will keep going.”
Asked if she would eventually like to see smoking bans extended to the high-roller room, Mrs Skinner said: “Who knows what will happen eventually? We’ve got to be consistent across the country in terms of bans on things like high-rollers’ rooms”.
The Star argues that if high rollers, many of whom are visiting from Asia, are prevented from smoking while gambling they will take their business elsewhere, possibly interstate to rivals such as Crown in Victoria.
The Herald has revealed that Labor planned to put forward the amendment, which at the time had the support of the Christian Democratic Party MP Fred Nile, whose party shares the balance of power in the upper house. At the time Reverend Nile stated it was not his job to protect the casino’s revenue.
If the ban was implemented in NSW it would risk scuttling the casino mogul James Packer’s vision for a second casino at Barangaroo, which he has said would solely target high rollers.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has been vocal in his support for Mr Packer’s plans, which rely on gaining control of the Star’s monopoly casino licence.
After lobbying from Crown representatives, Reverend Nile was convinced that supporting the amendment risked the government withdrawing the entire bill, meaning the bans on outdoor areas would be lost.
Mr Packer was seen in NSW Parliament yesterday afternoon before the vote. Reverend Nile voted against the amendment last night.
He told Parliament he had “investigated casino policy” and staff were not pressured to work in the high-roller room.
“I have had it confirmed that no staff members are rostered to work in private gaming rooms; they are volunteers,” he said.
“They do not receive any extra pay and there is a waiting list of employees who want to work in those rooms.”
Reverend Nile also flagged the possibility of a national approach to banning smoking in high-roller rooms.
“Like the government, I would prefer a national policy that covered all casinos in Australia so they were all on the same legislative basis,” he said.
“That would provide fairness and natural justice for all casinos so that one did not have an advantage over another. It might be possible – I am always an optimist – for New South Wales to draft a bill similar to the one suggested by the Labor Party in its amendments. That could become model legislation for Australia and often that is how national policies are developed.”
We are really sick and tired of hearing unsupported and unconvinced charges of injured worker fraud and malingering that are advanced by insurers, employers, and the media and supported by the workers compensation insurance. These allegations also stigmatise injured workers and make them less likely to report injuries and file claims, as is evidenced by a recent report released by The Australia Bureau of Statistics regarding work-related injuries in Australia from July 2009 to June 2010. Their findings revealed that a whopping 64.1% of injured workers were still not receiving compensation.
Many injured workers miss out on workers compensation
The Bureau of Statistics’ findings revealed that although there had been an increase in the number of injured workers who received workers’ compensation payments (35.9% – which is an increase of the 31.3% reported in 2005-2006), a whopping 64.1% of injured workers were still not receiving compensation!
The main reason cited for injured workers not applying for workers’ compensation was that they did not consider it necessary; 50% believed their injury to be minor, 10% believed they were not covered or were not aware of workers’ compensation and a further 10% did not believe they were eligible for compensation.
According to the Bureau of Statistic’s report, the occupations with the highest proportion of injured workers were technicians and tradeworkers (30%), labourers (19%) and machine operators (15%). for male workers.
For women, it was professional positions (24%), community and personal service workers (21%) and sales workers (14%)
Generally, men were more likely to experience a work-related injury or illness than women, says the report. Workers within the 45-49 year age group were also most likely to be affected by a work-related injury or illness ( 72 injured workers per 1,000 employed people).
By far the most common form of injury was a sprain or strain, with almost a third of injured workers affected, while chronic joint or muscle conditions (18%) and open wounds (16%) were also common complaints.
Interestingly, men had a higher proportion of cuts or open wounds, women experienced greater issues with chronic joint or muscle conditions.
Reexamining workers’ compensation: A human rights perspective
Here is a very good article, sourced by our co-author Trinny
Re-thinking Workers’ Compensation-The Human Rights Perspective, the June 2012 special open-access issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, is now available online.
In the journal commentary, the editor writes:
The articles in this special issue propose an alternate framework and analysis, a human rights approach that values the dignity and economic security of injured workers and their families.” Mainstream debates around workers’ compensation are very technical, market-driven and cost oriented. The focus is rarely on meeting the needs of injured/ ill workers. This discourse ignores the plight of the injured/ill workers and their grave suffering as they navigate workers’ compensation systems that often function poorly on multiple levels. A human rights framework mandates that those most directly and negatively impacted by a system, in this case injured/ill workers, be at the center of any discussion concerning system reform. Contributors to the AJIM special issue accordingly highlight the many failures of workers’ compensation and explore pro-worker strategies, solutions and alternatives that are grounded in the experiences of injured/ill workers and designed to advance their rights.
To read the journal article, click here.
Here are some important facts from Beyond Blue. (Beyond Blues’ mission is to provide a national focus and community leadership to increase the capacity of the broader Australian community to prevent depression and respond effectively.) Generally, depression and anxiety disorders, are not managed well by organisations. In fact, many current management practices, such as recommending time off work or a holiday may compound the problem and make the situation worse. We could also argue that many organisations also cause mental health issues through poor management practice – this is clearly the case when it comes to managing (or not managing) RTW for injured workers..
Workplace mental health
Did you know…
Depression and anxiety disorders are the second leading cause of disability and mortality in Australia°. Nearly three million people experience depression and/or anxiety each year¹, and unlike many physical illnesses, depression and anxiety impact on people during their prime working years. Effective treatments are available but 50 per cent of people do not seek treatment
The impact of depression in the workplace includes²:
- Three to four days off work per month for each person experiencing depression
- Over six million working days lost each year in Australia
- 12 million days of reduced productivity each year.
Key measures of success for beyondblue are based around the principles of:
- Reach – to take the message to every Australian workplace and
- Impact – that Australian workplaces actively address depression and anxiety at work.
beyondblue is guided by the following:
We recognise – that workplaces provide a relevant and appropriate setting in which to address the issues of depression and anxiety.
We know – that workplaces often don’t know what to do to address depression and anxiety or how to do it. We aim to address this knowledge and skill gap.
We know – that workplace factors can contribute to poor mental health.
- Research indicates that work and the workplace impacts on a person’s mental health, either positively or negatively.
- In turn an employee’s mental health affects the workplace. Mental health problems (such as depression, anxiety and related substance use disorders) are common and they have an impact on individuals, their families and co-workers, and the broader community.
- Mental health problems also have a direct impact on workplaces through increased absenteeism, reduced productivity and increased costs.
- Results of the VicHealth and Melbourne University Estimating the economic benefits of eliminating job strain as a risk factor for depression³ study found that “job strain”, where workers have little control over their job but are under high pressure to perform, accounts for 17 per cent of depression in working women and 13 per cent in working men.
- According to this study, job-related depression costs the economy $730 million every year. This includes lost productivity due to absenteeism and presenteeism and government subsidised medical care, including counselling and antidepressants.
- This equates to $11.8 billion over the average working lifetime, with the biggest loss accruing to employers through lost productivity. The report also revealed an $85 million cost of absences for depressed workers who do not have access to paid sick leave, a significant cost to employees.
beyondblue info line
- Phone: 1300 22 4636
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The beyondblue info line provides information on depression, anxiety and related disorders, available treatments and referrals to relevant services. You can call the info line for the cost of a local call or send an email. If you require a translator, the info line operator will request one through the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS).
If you are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment, call through the National Relay Service:
- TTY: Ph 133 677 and ask for 1300 22 4636.
- Speak and Listen (SSR): Ph 1300 555 727 and ask for 1300 22 4636.
- Internet Relay: connect to www.relayservice.com.au and ask for 1300 22 4636.
Interestingly, following Trinny’s earlier post about companies involved in the responsibility of an innocent worker’s senseless death at a SA desalination plant walking away un-fined and un-prosecuted, I stumbled on a recent legal Victorian case whereby a large fatality-related fine was actually doubled, which appears to show that employers must really go the extra mile to ensure workers are safe and are adhering to their safety management systems.
Recent fatality related doubling of fine shows employers must ensure safety
The Victorian Court of Appeal has doubled the fine against a company that pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe working environment for employees.
Coates Hire Operations Pty Ltd was fined $500,000, for failing to provide a safe work environment in circumstances where the company was well aware of a hazard that ultimately resulted in the death of a contractor.
“This case emphasises that there is little point in having safe procedures and systems of work, if they are not enforced by management”, Lander & Rogers Lawyers state
“The employer must also actively implement the system in the workplace, including performance management for non-compliance with safety requirements.”
In February 2007, a worker from Redline Towing and Salvage Pty Ltd was contracted out to work for Coates Hire Operations Pty Ltd. The worker drove an elevated work platform onto a tilt-tray truck without using a winch cable. The platform then struck the tray, rolled backwards and, most unfortunately, fatally crushed the worker.
In 2012, the County Court fined Coates Hire Operations 250,000 for failing to provide a safe work environment. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions appealed this decision and argued [rightly, in our opinion] that the $250,000 fine was “manifestly inadequate”.
At the Court of Appeal [President Chris Maxwell, Justices Mark Weinberg & Elizabeth Hollingworth] it was heard that before the fatal accident, Coates Hire had safety procedures in place for the loading hazard. Coates Hire had also issued a safety alert that “all drivers, including contractors [must ensure] that the winch cable must always be connected to the equipment when loading/unloading equipment”.
The Victorian Court of Appeal also heard that the employer’s OHS manager knew there were “differences of opinion” on the proper procedure for loading plant, but that he had failed to resolve the issue because he went on holiday and then “was too busy over the Christmas season”.
The court of Appeal also heard that the manager knew that the winching requirement was not being complied with, but did nothing to enforce compliance
They also stated that the employer knew that the non-compliance with the winching requirement created a real safety risk.
“The incident which had prompted [the employer] to issue [the safety alert] occurred almost exactly a year before [the worker’s] fatal accident,” they said.
“On that occasion [an]… employee was injured as a result of the very hazard which the winching procedure was established to prevent.
In determining the level of the new fine, the Court of Appeal gave consideration to the pro-safety initiatives Coates Hired had taken after the incident. These included: introducing an online contractor induction system and driver examinations; employing extra yardmen and segregating bays; appointing an operational manager; and increasing the health and safety team from 5 to 15 people.
However, the Justices also heard that the company had already been convicted twice before for breaches of the occupational health and safety law and that, the “disregard of safety which resulted in [the worker’s] death had to be seen against the background of the company’s two prior convictions”
“In 2001, the company was convicted [for] failing to provide a safe working environment and fined $10,000 [and] in 2003, it was convicted of failing to ensure a safe workplace and was fined $22,000, they said.
“The size of the fines indicates that these breaches were very much at the low end of seriousness.
Justices Maxwell, Weinberg and Hollingworth allowed the appeal and doubled the fine to $500,000. They said if the employer had not pleaded guilty, the fine would have been $600,000.
Redline Towing and Salvage Pty Ltd $130,000 [ in 2010 proceedings].
You can read the full case here: DPP (Vic) v Coates Hire Operations Pty Ltd (2012])VSCA 131 (25 June 2012)
[post entered by T on behalf of WCV]
Please free to attend if you are nearby. We want to hear the stories and offer support in any way we can.
We will be holding meetings that are open to injured workers and their families, carers or friends over the next few weeks and intend to hold these types of meetings on a regular basis. The aim of these meetings is to bring injured workers together to discuss issues of concern as well as attempt to provide guidance or advice.
If you are interested in attending please contact me on (02) 9749 7566 or email: email@example.com
Location: AMWU –Auditorium, 133 Parramatta Rd, Granville
Date of next meeting: 23rd of July, 2012
Location: Newcastle, Workers Health Centre, Suite 5, 453 Hunter St, Newcastle
Date of next meeting: 26th of July, 2012
Date of next meeting: 30th of July, 2012