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.
Develop the Defence Occupational Health and Safety Strategic
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
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
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
|Defence Safety Management Agency
|Serious personal injury(3)
|Incidents resulting in incapacity(4)
- Incident reports are any significant
incidents or accidents caused by work-related employment within Defence
or as a result of a Defence undertaking. |
- Comcare reportable deaths.
- 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.
- Incapacity is when an employee is unable
to perform work for 30 or more consecutive days or shifts.
- Dangerous occurrence is a near miss incident
that could have, but did not, result in a fatality, incapacity or serious
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:
- reduce the incidence of workers' compensation claims;
- reduce the duration of time off work;
- ensure improved accountability and responsibility for injury prevention
and management; and
- reduce the workers' compensation premium.
Investigations By Comcare
Comcare investigations include:
- planned investigations;
- targeted investigations on specific issues;
- reactive investigations resulting from an incident or accident; and
- whole-of-agency investigations as part of Comcare's three-year rolling
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
|Whole of Agency Investigations
Notices Issued By Comcare Investigators
Comcare investigators are able to issue notices as follows:
- an 'Improvement Notice' based on a situation that contravenes the Occupational
Health and Safety Act or regulations;
- a 'Prohibition Notice' issued by a Comcare investigator to remove an immediate
threat to the health or safety of a person; and
- a 'Do Not Disturb Notice' for a specified period of time to remove a threat
to the health and safety of a person.
Three improvement notices and one prohibition notice issued in 2001-02 remain
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
Table 5.20: Comcare Notices
|'Do not Disturb' Notices
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:
- Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, as amended
by the Military Compensation Act 1994, under delegation from Comcare;
- Chapter 10, Part 5 of Defence Determination 2000/1 under the Defence
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