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Occupational Health and Safety

Administrative Framework

Given the importance of occupational health and safety in Defence, an Occupational Health and Safety Committee was established as a sub-committee of the Defence Committee. An Occupational Health Safety and Compensation Branch was also established within Defence Personnel Executive, bringing together a number of related areas to provide a focus for both occupational health and safety prevention and compensation.

As part of the overall administrative framework for dealing with health and safety issues, each Group has a Group safety coordinator to assist in generating improved awareness of occupational health and safety in Defence and to achieve consistency in implementing policies. Health and safety training is provided annually to staff.

A 'wellbeing' program was developed to assist staff to improve their fitness and health. Three main principles - health matters, life matters and physical matters - underpin this program. These principles are applied across the organisation and are adaptable to suit the needs and wants of separate geographic sites. Other occupational health and safety training programs have continued to ensure that the importance of the health and safety of people is continually reinforced in the workplace.

Key Initiatives

Develop the Defence Occupational Health and Safety Strategic Plan

Substantially Achieved

The plan will provide the basis for a more consistent and cohesive approach to improving health and safety in Defence. The Occupational Health and Safety Committee is overseeing this plan which is expected to be finalised by the end of 2003. The Committee will monitor and report on the development and maintenance of the Defence occupational health and safety management system.

Develop and implement a Corporate Safety Governance System

Partially Achieved

A key achievement in 2001-02 was the establishment of a corporate safety governance system to be implemented over a three-year period. As part of this process, 13 Defence safety performance requirements were outlined as the basis for reporting. Implementing the system in 2002-03 included Group progress reports on performance against these requirements. Reports indicated a commitment to safety by senior executives although inconsistency was apparent in implementation across Defence. The issue of inconsistency is being addressed through the preparation of material to provide specific guidance to Groups.

Develop a Defence Radiation Safety Policy


A decision to develop a Defence radiation safety policy was taken in 2001 to ensure Defence was able to adhere to the terms of a licence issued by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. Subsequently, a radiation safety policy was developed and promulgated in the Defence Safety Manual 2002. In addition, a comprehensive policy on radiofrequency radiation safety was developed during 2002-03 and will be promulgated in the Defence Safety Manual (second edition) 2003.

Develop frameworks for regulator relationships

Substantially Achieved

In 2002-03, formal and informal mechanisms were established, and existing systems strengthened, to assist in communication with key stakeholders. Examples include the Defence/Comcare Liaison Forum, the Defence Union/Management Forum and membership, participation in the Commonwealth Safety Managers' Safety Forum and the Defence/Department of Veterans' Affairs Links Board.

Notification and Reporting of Incidents

In 2002-03, 10,635 incident reports were received. Advice to Comcare is based on four categories of incidents: dangerous occurrences, incidents resulting in incapacity and incidents resulting in serious personal injury and death. Data on incidents over a three-year period is provided in the table below.

Table 5.18: Incident Reporting
Reports 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03
Defence Safety Management Agency
Incident reports(1) 8,455 11,870 10,635
Death(2) 6 5 2
Serious personal injury(3) 1,819 962 545
Incidents resulting in incapacity(4) 144 503 344
Dangerous occurrences(5) 1,978 3,153 2,307
  1. Incident reports are any significant incidents or accidents caused by work-related employment within Defence or as a result of a Defence undertaking. |
  2. Comcare reportable deaths. |
  3. Incidents resulting in serious personal injury are those where emergency treatment is provided by a medical practitioner at a hospital or where the employee requires hospitalisation. |
  4. Incapacity is when an employee is unable to perform work for 30 or more consecutive days or shifts. |
  5. Dangerous occurrence is a near miss incident that could have, but did not, result in a fatality, incapacity or serious personal injury.

Defence Civilian Compensation

Civilian compensation and rehabilitation

A total of 420 workers' compensation claims were received from Defence employees in 2002-03. There were 84 injuries sustained while employees were travelling to or from the workplace, 25 on authorised sport, and seven during a normal recess. The other 304 injuries occurred during work. The Defence Civilian Injury Prevention and Management Framework is being developed to identify and implement effective, targeted strategies to:

Investigations By Comcare

Comcare investigations include:

Comcare investigations undertaken for each of these categories over a three-year period are outlined in the table below.

Table 5.19: Investigations by Comcare
Reports 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03
Planned Investigations 10 3 -
Targeted Investigations - - 10
Reactive Investigations 48 26 25
Whole of Agency Investigations 2 2 -
Total 60 31 35

Notices Issued By Comcare Investigators

Comcare investigators are able to issue notices as follows:

Three improvement notices and one prohibition notice issued in 2001-02 remain current.

In 2002-03, ten Comcare notices were issued to Defence. An improvement notice was served on HMAS Warramunga relating to machinery turning gear. As a result of the investigation, similar gear on all Anzac-class frigates is being modified. Two improvement notices were issued to RAAF Williamtown in relation to an overhead crane collapse. These were addressed through a risk assessment, developing of safe work procedures and installation of suitable devices. Two improvement notices were served on HMAS Westralia as a result of the Comcare investigation of modifications made after the fire of May 1998. The Comcare investigation did not take place until after the completion of the HMAS Westralia Board of Inquiry. The issue related to the requirement for a system of safe work practices and adequate scrutiny of maintenance and repair. The Navy has met Comcare requirements.

Data on Comcare notices over a three-year period is summarised in the table below.

Table 5.20: Comcare Notices
Reports 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03
Improvement Notices 6 4 5
Prohibition Notices 3 1 2
'Do not Disturb' Notices - - 3
Total 9 5 10

Military Compensation and Rehabilitation

The Military Compensation and Rehabilitation Service in the Department of Veterans' Affairs administers the following components of the Military Compensation Scheme on behalf of Defence with respect to serving and former members of the Australian Defence Force:

Services benefits comprise compensation and rehabilitation services and transition management services to assist ADF members who are being discharged on medical grounds to make a successful transition to civilian life. Performance is reported annually by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

On 27 June 2003, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, released an exposure draft of the new Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Bill for consultation. The new scheme combines traditional elements with modern compensation principles to meet the needs of current and future ADF personnel and their families. The Bill will remain an exposure draft until 31 August to allow time for the ADF and the Veteran communities to comment. It will be introduced during the spring session of Parliament in 2003. Current plans are for the new Act to be operational from July 2004