OH&S report released

The Federal Government’s Comparative Performance Monitoring Report 9th Edition is now available. The Report offers a comparison of occupational health and safety and workers' compensation schemes in Australia and New Zealand.

The Federal Government’s Comparative Performance Monitoring Report 9th Edition is now available. The Report offers a comparison of occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation schemes in Australia and New Zealand. (The last report was September 2006.)

Performance against the National OHS Strategy 2002—2012

The reduction in the incidence rate of injury and musculoskeletal claims between the base period (2000—01 to 2002—03) and 2005—06 was 13%, which is below the rate of improvement required to meet the National OHS Strategy 2002—2012 (the National OHS Strategy) target of a 40% reduction by 2011—12.

An improvement of at least 16% was required in 2005—06 to be considered ‘on track’ to meet the target. NSW is the only jurisdiction to have exceeded this level of improvement, recording a 21% improvement, though the Australian Government recorded a 15% improvement, and Seacare and South Australia recorded a 14% improvement. Considerable efforts will be required by all jurisdictions if the target is to be met.

While fatality incidence rates had shown more encouraging levels of improvement in previous reports, the number of fatalities recorded for 2005—06 is higher than in previous years, decreasing the percentage improvement from the base period.

The incidence of compensated fatalities from injury and musculoskeletal disorders decreased by 8% from the base period to 2005—06. While this is still ‘on target’ to meet the 20% reduction required by 2011—12, a further 2% reduction is required to meet the interim target of a 10% reduction by 2006—07. The fatality incidence rates show considerable volatility and consistent improvement is required.

The National OHS Strategy also includes an aspirational target for Australia to have the lowest work-related traumatic fatality rate in the world by 2009.

Analysis of international data indicates that in 2004—05, Australia recorded the sixth lowest injury fatality rate, with this rate decreasing more quickly than many of the best performing countries in the world. However, despite this improvement, it is unlikely that Australia will meet the aspirational goal unless substantial improvements are recorded in the next few years.

OHS performance

There has been a fall of 14% from the rate of 18.2 claims per 1000 employees reported in 2001—02 to the rate of 16.8 claims per 1000 employees reported in 2004—05. The preliminary workers’ compensation claims data for Australia indicate that in 2005—06 the incidence of serious injury and disease claims was 15.6 claims per 1000 employees. It is expected that this rate will increase by around 3% when the liability on all the claims submitted in 2005—06 is determined.

There have been 231 compensated fatalities recorded so far for Australia for 2005—06, of which 184 were from injury and musculoskeletal disorders and 47 were from other diseases. It is expected that this number will rise slightly when all claims are processed. The number of compensated fatalities has decreased from 316 recorded in 2001—02 to 254 recorded in 2004—05.

The preliminary workers’ compensation claims data for New Zealand indicate that in 2005—06 the incidence of serious injury and disease claims was 13.3 claims per 1000 employees. New Zealand recorded an 11% increase in incidence rates from 2001—02 to 2004—05, though the New Zealand rate remained lower than Australia. One reason for this is that the New Zealand scheme does not provide the same level of coverage of occupational diseases (such as work-related mental disorders) as Australia. There were 92 compensated fatalities in New Zealand in 2005—06, down from 103 recorded in 2004—05 but still an increase on the 68 recorded in 2001—02.

Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council Summary of findings

Body stressing continued to be the mechanism of injury/disease which accounted for the greatest proportion of claims (42%). Claim numbers for this group have shown little change over the past five years. This mechanism is receiving attention under the National OHS Strategy. Claims for Mental stress recorded the greatest percentage increase of all mechanism groups: 12% over the period from 2001—02 to 2004—05. These claims represent 6% of all serious claims.

In 2005—06 over 114 000 inspections of workplaces were undertaken around Australia with 67 200 notices issued, over 900 prosecutions commenced and almost $23 million in fines handed out by the courts.

The highest incidence rates were recorded in the Manufacturing industry (28.6 claims per 1000 employees) followed by the Transport and storage industry (28.3), the Agriculture, forestry and fishing industry (25.9) and the Construction industry (25.3). All these industries together with the Health and community services industry, are receiving attention under the National OHS Strategy.

Workers’ compensation scheme performance

Australia’s standardised average premium rate fell 9% from 2.16% of payroll in 2003—04 to 1.96% of payroll in 2005—06. Most jurisdictions recorded falls over this period. While the Australian Government scheme recorded a 9% increase over this period, it still recorded the lowest premium rate of all jurisdictions at 1.22% of payroll in 2005—06.

The New Zealand standardised average premium rate was 0.94% of payroll in 2005—06, a small increase on the previous year which recorded 0.91% of payroll, though still lower than Australia’s rate. One reason for the lower rate in New Zealand is that it does not provide the same level of coverage for occupational diseases as Australia provides.

In 2005—06 the Australian average funding ratio rose to 115%, the first time it has been over 100% since the CPM began compiling these data. Stronger investment performances have contributed to this increase with five of the eight Australian schemes recording improvements from last year. A number of schemes have also introduced reforms which have helped reduce liabilities. Western Australia recorded a notable fall from 125% to 113% following improvements to benefits.

In 2005—06, Australian workers’ compensation schemes expended $5799 million, of which, 52% was paid direct to the injured worker in compensation for their injury or illness and 22% was expended on medical and other services costs. Claims management expenses made up 18% of the total expenditure by schemes, up from 14% in 2001—02.

The durable return to work rate continued to increase with 80% of workers returning to work in 2005—06 following a work-related injury or disease. South Australia was the only jurisdiction to not record an improvement in return to work rates.

The rate of disputation on claims fell to 8.6% of claims in 2005—06, down from 9.0% in 2004—05.

The Northern Territory and Tasmania recorded the largest percentage falls in disputation rates. The time taken to resolve disputes has not shown any improvement since 2001—02.

View the Report at www.workplace.gov.au/cpm