Apr 15

No laughing matter: NSW WorkCover Scheme transfers costs and responsibility for injured workers to taxpayers

O'farrell laughingThere is a clear pattern emerging based on stories we are hearing from injured workers and their solicitors that are quite alarming. New workers comp laws simply make it much easier for insurers to discard injured workers rather than assist them.   Ongoing medical costs can now be easily transferred to the public health system along with weekly benefits to unemployment benefits/ disability pensions.

The bottom line is that insurers are making significant profits at the expense of employers, injured workers and taxpayers.

Examples

1. Retrospectivity of workers compensation laws

A number of injured workers have been informed by Work Cover, when making inquiries, that any previous legal rulings under old laws along with entitlements would no long be honoured and they would likely be sent for a capacity assessment and have benefits cut – forcing injured workers onto Centrelink payments or disability pensions.

2.  Work capacity assessments

We have heard of a number of cases where severely injured workers are now being sent letters informing them of a 3 month notice to cease ongoing medical and weekly benefits and are being forced to apply for taxpayer funded disability support pensions and ongoing medical treatment from the public health system.

3. Impairment assessments

Other injured workers whose conditions have deteriorated are not having revised Whole Person Impairments recognised.  They are being told that under new laws they may only have one assessment which doesn’t take into account that some conditions deteriorate which prevents compensation for further disability, however, more importantly it prevents access to ongoing and necessary medical treatment.

4. Hostile environment

One injured worker who scheduled for major surgery was informed that he was required to undergo a work capacity assessment just prior to his operation and if he didn’t attend his benefits would cease.  This is despite the fact that the full extent of capacity wouldn’t be known for at least 10 months after the operation.  This highlights just how hostile insurers have become and also adds additional pressures on insurance company and rehabilitation case managers to comply with misguided policies and procedures.

Apr 13

Science second in toxic CSIRO work culture

th-CSIRO4-90x60

Science second in toxic CSIRO work culture

Linton Besser and Nicky Phillips.

Workplace conflict is driving staff away.

Midway through last year, a loose alliance of disgruntled former staff – including some very prominent scientists – created a website called victimsofcsiro.com, and began publishing allegations against their former employer.

The obscure blog was a low-key beginning to what has become a full-throated campaign in which some disgruntled scientists claim the independence and, therefore, credibility of Australia’s peak scientific body is threatened by government and now industry interference. They also claim the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has largely jettisoned pure science and is a toxic workplace where bullying is rife and outrageous behaviour by some managers has been ignored.

Top-flight researchers have departed to find scientific freedom elsewhere. 

A parliamentary committee examining workplace bullying published the group’s submission that claimed there were 60 cases of top-flight scientists and others who were harassed and frozen out.

Dennis PearceHeading the inquiry: Former Commonwealth ombudsman Dennis Pearce. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

This list included Maarten Stapper, a soil scientist allegedly pushed out because of his criticism of genetically modified crops, globally recognised oceanographer Trevor McDougall, and award-winning entomologist Sylwester Chyb.

The CSIRO, in an awkward position as a government agency, could not respond publicly to the allegations. In December, after a lengthy investigation Comcare issued CSIRO with a legal notice ordering ”improvement” of the way it handled workplace misconduct. Soon the opposition was claiming it was aware of 100 individual cases of bullying.

In February Megan Clark responded. The chief executive placed a letter on the CSIRO website announcing her decision to establish an ”independent inquiry” into workplace bullying, which is now being run by a consultant and former Commonwealth ombudsman Dennis Pearce.

Sylwester Chyb former CSIRO scientist In dispute: Entomologist Sylwester Chyb is taking action against his former employer. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

The ”victims of CSIRO” group is unimpressed by the scope CSIRO gave Pearce, while senior CSIRO officials are unimpressed by the claims the inquiry has been set up to examine. At a recent Senate hearing, Mike Whelan, a deputy chief executive, said: ”Lots of allegations have been tossed around by stakeholders and media in recent times, and I would have to say that the bases for some of those are pretty dodgy.”

Whelan may be right. Some have hitched themselves to the campaign with dubious claims of mistreatment; others were themselves the subject of adverse findings for bullying.

The group suffered a blow recently when the Fair Work Commission dismissed an application by the ”victims” spokesman Andrew Hooley to be granted an extension of time to appeal against his February 2011 dismissal from the CSIRO: ”There is no evidence upon which I could be satisfied that CSIRO took prejudicial action against Mr Hooley either before or after his employment ended.”

Dr Megan Clark Chief Executive CSIROHolding the reins: Dr Megan Clark, Chief Executive CSIRO. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij

But there are other people attached to the group who have the potential to embarrass the organisation. The most serious surfaced in December, when a court made adverse findings about two senior CSIRO officials. One, Damien Thomas, was found to have sent a ”deliberately false” email in an attempt to mislead business manager Martin Williams.

Another, Calum Drummond, was found by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to have given evidence that could not be trusted. He had denied to the court that during the affair he had sidestepped the organisation’s formal recruitment process. Of his evidence, deputy president James Constance said: ”I am not satisfied that Dr Drummond was a reliable witness and I do not make any findings of fact based on his evidence.” Drummond now sits one rung below the chief executive.

The Williams case was a glimpse of another side of the organisation rarely seen by the public.

Senior figures of the CSIRO accept the organisation can sometimes be riven by conflict. They accept, too, that the institute has shifted away from ”pure science”. Some of those who have left say it acts increasingly as a research arm of industry and the federal government. Now, 16 reviews, which were previously confidential, of the organisation largely confirm this view.

The change is having a deleterious effect on staff. Top-flight researchers have departed to find scientific freedom elsewhere while others have been pushed out. Money is scarce. And as the organisation slides into what insiders have described as a ”consultancy” culture, as the funding for fundamental science has dwindled, so the CSIRO’s researchers have learnt to claw at each other to get it.

The obvious question is why. If it is true the CSIRO is riven by conflict and overseen by clubby, inept management, how could this have happened?

Some sheet home blame to CSIRO’s former chief executive Geoff Garrett. Before his appointment in 2000, each division of the organisation directed its own science, and its leaders enjoyed utter autonomy. Garrett bombshelled these silos, introducing a corporate hierarchy that funnelled to him and to his entourage control over funds. With the money went control of the direction of the organisation.

It is widely accepted the CSIRO needed change – that the power of the division chiefs sometimes prevented collaboration and fostered expensive duplication. But Garrett’s critics say that in his war on the past, the best elements of the CSIRO’s science culture became collateral damage.

Scientists suddenly had what felt like sales targets. Groups of researchers had to bring into the organisation a share of what they were spending in contracts with companies and others. Perhaps more than any other factor, it is the heavy emphasis on ”applied” science that has prompted the CSIRO’s internal malaise.

Stephen Cameron, an entomologist now working for the Queensland University of Technology, attended a retreat in about March 2008 that was meant to be a forum to discuss the future direction of the CSIRO’s entomology division. There, in front of a room of at least 100 people, a senior CSIRO executive addressed the question of funding for basic research.

”There was … a discussion of the academic side of things and [the question of] when you have time to write up papers from projects,” he recalled. ”What most people do is to put a white lie in … and put in ‘analysis’ to cover the period when the writing would happen.”

He said what followed was a question of ”how do you get new ideas off the ground and do exploratory work because you’re meant to spend all the money on the wheat council project, for example”.

”That’s when [the executive] said: ‘you have to do skunk work’.” Both he and the entomologist Sylwester Chyb (who is embroiled in litigation with the CSIRO) say the terms were a colloquialism for using money from paying customers to pay for side projects more useful for the CSIRO’s global reputation.

The CSIRO dug up the presentation in question. The slide that accompanied the remarks said: ”Keep ‘skunking’; Don’t sell 100 per cent of yourself; leave some time for developing ideas, early stage research.” A CSIRO spokesman said the executive was simply telling the audience to keep ”working harder”.

But the pressure for outside money is so great that observers see it too, including formal panels of scientists appointed to review the organisation every four years. Researchers feel ”sliced and diced” and ”disempowered”, the reviews say, by the need to adhere to what paying customers want. ”Dividing their time amongst three, four or even more projects … impacts negatively on morale and, in turn, productivity.”

One division in 2010 was said to be suffering from ”an inward-looking culture; low morale in some areas; an ever-increasing demand to earn external income; confused lines of communication and responsibility”.

The CSIRO executive responsible for managing these reviews, Jack Steele, said the high targets for external funding were partly a ”perception” issue, as they were set after government funds paid for the infrastructure that supports each team of researchers.

”Are we thinking … we should be funding all of our research … from appropriation and there should not be external revenue targets? Or is it appropriate that industry is investing in the R&D that is relevant to that industry’s future?” Steele said.

But the pressure for revenue is clearly the cause of much angst inside the CSIRO. Some feel they carry a ”disproportionate burden” of low-grade projects directed by paying customers which ”will eventually lead to unhappiness and dissent”.

Similarly, the fact that only some scientists enjoy full funding ”may in time lead to some tension with those groups that have very high external earnings targets”.

One panel feared that established scientists would be ”frozen out” of fundamental research projects by managers anxious to keep them available for the industry jobs that bring in external cash.

The result of much of this turmoil is the departure of good people. Leading scientists have been repeatedly lured away. ”A number of first-class scientists have left the [land and water] division … for opportunities they considered would give them more scientific freedom and more opportunity to make major contributions in their fields of science,” the most recent external review of 2009 said.

Meanwhile in other areas, a clubby atmosphere, or ”over-reliance on promoting from within” has blocked promotion for younger researchers.

The CSIRO deputy chief executive Craig Roy said the organisation had ”looked very hard” at its culture over the past decade. ”We have done a lot of work in the space of learning and development about how people get on in the workplace,” he said. ”How you have difficult conversations if you need to … it doesn’t always come naturally to people.”

He also said that ”if you want to be top 10 in the world, you need a very strong performance-based culture. And sometimes that can create some difficulties, but I think we’re also a compassionate organisation.”

By July, Megan Clark will have an idea as to how large a problem workplace conflict has been in the CSIRO, when the first of three reports by Pearce is delivered. This report, a ”high-level” document that outlines ”the overarching findings and recommendations” from the first phase of his inquiry, will be made public.

A second, confidential, report due in February will tell her which submissions are sufficiently well-evidenced to be investigated during a second phase. But Pearce’s scope will restrict these investigations to matters that have not been ”formally investigated in a fair manner, or which have been or are being considered by a judicial or administrative body”. It will not cover events before 2005, nor consider complaints from current staff or allegations against former employees.

In the meantime, Roy is adamant the organisation has performed miracles over the past decade. ”I find it quite astounding,” he said, ”that we’ve been able to lift our external impact, maintain our science, lift our external revenue demonstrably, and have a low separation rate and a high staff satisfaction rate.”

Do you know more?

investigations@smh.com.au

Apr 12

Widow’s anger: ‘Everyone has a right to come home’

Workplace health and safety

‘Everyone has the right to come home’

When Kristy Kolomaka heard a man had died after a sheet of glass fell on him, she wanted to reach out to his family.

Having lost her own husband in a workplace accident, she knew the shocking pain of being told your husband wasn’t coming home at the end of his shift.

“I felt for that family, if I knew who the people were I would have called them. I just wanted to say ‘I know what you’re going through’.”

It’s been five years since Setaleki Kolomaka died at BlueScope Steel’s Port Kembla site, after losing control of a steel lance, forcing a deadly blast of water into his chest.

Wollongong Coroner’s Court found Mr Kolomaka’s death had been avoidable and was the result of multiple workplace safety failings by his employer, Allied Industrial Services.

Deputy State Coroner Ian Guy said a lack of proper equipment, inadequate training of supervisors, and the absence of a risk assessment, had led to the tragedy.

For Mrs Kolomaka, the emotions are still raw.

So news that seven WorkCover safety inspectors could be “sacked”, was “extremely distressing” to the mother of three who thinks everything possible should be done to protect workers.

“Considering what we’ve gone through in losing my husband, to me, without those kind of people (inspectors) there to police things, it’s distressing for someone like me,” Mrs Kolomaka said.

“It took something like what happened for it to sink in that workplaces are dangerous. At the end of the day human beings shouldn’t be a number, everyone has a right to come home.

“To have these people sacked, it’s not fair for them and not fair for workers themselves.”

Mrs Kolomaka said Easter was tough for her girls – the youngest only five when she lost her dad on May 22, 2008.

“She can’t remember him … knowing that it has happened to us, it can happen to anyone. That’s what a lot of people don’t understand or think about.

“It took my husband to die to get answers. So now to lose seven people who are there to help make sure our loved ones are safe at work and actually make it home, I think it’s ridiculous to get rid of them.

“They (the government) should stop and think about people for a change instead of thinking about saving dollars.”

Apr 12

Union fears demise of work safety watchdog

safe at work

Union fears demise of work safety watchdog

Wollongong workers and the general public would be at grave risk of injury if the NSW government pushed ahead with plans to axe the region’s safety inspectors, a union claims.

Seven WorkCover NSW inspectors in Wollongong were set to lose their jobs, meaning the construction industry would be without “front-line policing”, Brian Parker said yesterday.

The CFMEU secretary called on the government to come clean on what it had planned, saying he believed the job cuts in Wollongong would be “the opening salvo in a bid to slash inspector numbers at the safety authority”.

“Given the important role WorkCover inspectors are meant to play in maintaining safety on construction sites, we are demanding to know what is going on,” Mr Parker said.

“Just last month, a 37-year-old man was killed at a Wollongong glass manufacturer when a sheet of glass fell on top of him.

“It is appalling that we can have fatalities on job sites and at the same time, WorkCover is cutting inspector numbers.”

The WorkCover Authority was called to investigate the man’s death at Coniston on March 8.

He was crushed under the weight of eight large sheets of toughened glass. The load fell as the man was handling the three-metre-high sheets, each weighing about 100 kilograms.

Workers tried to help him while paramedics were called to the site, a glass manufacturer on John Cleary Place.

Mr Parker said yesterday that losing seven WorkCover positions meant “no tough cops on the beat”.

“To be honest, we are appalled at the situation,” he said.

“In the industry, there are a lot of inferior products coming in from overseas, a lot of the work is high risk … stuff like steel structures and scaffolding coming in, so there will be no policing of that.

“It really means no people left on the beat any more.”

Mr Parker said “unscrupulous employers would cut safety programs to the bone” because there would be no one to enforce the rules.

“When you are looking at inferior materials coming into the country from places, like China and Taiwan, and big steel structures in the air … our fears are just not for the workers in Wollongong, we are fearful for the general public as well.”

Mr Parker said the government had “ripped the guts” out of workers’ compensation system and was now adding to the burden workers faced, by removing “what little safety enforcement remained”.

Apr 12

‘Insidious’ medical workplace bullying studied

155783917_220x147

‘Insidious’ medical workplace bullying

Workplace bullying affects a quarter of Australian medical professionals and similar “insidious” levels are likely to be occurring in New Zealand, says a researcher.

A study of the Australian medical workforce found one in four doctors had experienced persistent bullying in the past year, which undermined their professional confidence or self-esteem, said University of Canterbury health sciences expert Professor Philip Schluter, who was involved in the research.

Of the 774 participants, 193 reported suffering bullying.

Described as “repeated systematic, interpersonal abusive behaviours that negatively affect the targeted individual and the organisation”, workplace bullying includes behaviours that intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a worker.

Examples included junior staff being undermined by senior specialists and patients bullying doctors over diagnosis or treatment.

The culture and structure of the profession in Australia and New Zealand are similar, which often fostered bullying behaviours, said Mr Schluter.

“We do believe the environments are similar enough that we can probably generalise those results but we do need the New Zealand information.”

The prevalence of workplace bullying in the whole medical workforce in New Zealand needs to be similarly studied, said Professor Schluter.

“We are looking to undertake more research into this area but we need to acknowledge the harmful effects of bullying and to ensure that anti-bullying policies and procedures are developed, documented and enacted.”

The social and economic implications were wide reaching, with bullied doctors taking more sick leave, feeling less satisfied with their jobs, more likely to be to decrease the number of hours worked or ceasing direct patient care in the next five years, said Professor Schluter.

In Australia workplace bullying is estimated to cost the economy between $6 billion and $36 billion a year through lost productivity, absenteeism, greater staff turnover and higher rates of illness, accidents, disability and suicide.

“The healthcare sector is under stress. Nevertheless, it is every worker’s moral and legal right to safe and healthy working conditions and an organisation where bullying occurs is not such an environment.”

Practitioners needed to be alert for potential bullying and work to minimise the impact on staff health, retention, and patient care, said Professor Schluter.

Apr 12

NSW WorkCover Scheme transfers costs and responsibility for injured workers to taxpayers

O'farrell laughingThere is a clear pattern emerging based on stories we are hearing from injured workers and their solicitors that are quite alarming. New workers comp laws simply make it much easier for insurers to discard injured workers rather than assist them.   Ongoing medical costs can now be easily transferred to the public health system along with weekly benefits to unemployment benefits/ disability pensions.

Insurance companies will to continue to increase premiums for employers based on injury and cost projections whilst transferring costs and responsibility to Australian taxpayers.  The bottom line is that insurers are making significant profits at the expense of employers, injured workers and taxpayers.

Examples

1. Retrospectivity of workers compensation laws

A number of injured workers have been informed by Work Cover, when making inquiries, that any previous legal rulings under old laws along with entitlements would no long be honoured and they would likely be sent for a capacity assessment and have benefits cut – forcing injured workers onto Centrelink payments or disability pensions.

2.  Work capacity assessments

We have heard of a number of cases where severely injured workers are now being sent letters informing them of a 3 month notice to cease ongoing medical and weekly benefits and are being forced to apply for taxpayer funded disability support pensions and ongoing medical treatment from the public health system.

3. Impairment assessments

Other injured workers whose conditions have deteriorated are not having revised Whole Person Impairments recognised.  They are being told that under new laws they may only have one assessment which doesn’t take into account that some conditions deteriorate which prevents compensation for further disability, however, more importantly it prevents access to ongoing and necessary medical treatment.

4. Hostile environment

One injured worker who scheduled for major surgery was informed that he was required to undergo a work capacity assessment just prior to his operation and if he didn’t attend his benefits would cease.  This is despite the fact that the full extent of capacity wouldn’t be known for at least 10 months after the operation.  This highlights just how hostile insurers have become and also adds additional pressures on insurance company and rehabilitation case managers to comply with misguided policies and procedures.

Apr 12

Every day I have pain. At every step the insurer has resisted paying for treatment: Injured nurse

Emily Orchard

Every day I have pain. At every step the insurer has resisted paying for treatment.” – Emily Orchard

The Nurses’ Association the article below last year – based on our survey it highlight the poor treatment injured workers were routinely exposed to and the adverse impact it was having on their lives.  New laws simply make it much easier to get rid of injured workers rather than assist them.   The ongoing medical costs can now be easily transferred to the public health system along with weekly benefits to unemployment benefits/ disability pensions

Injured workers face hostility

Type: The Lamp       Subject: WorkCover
29 June 2012

For people on workers’ compensation, coping with injury or illness may be the least of their worries.

Dealing with uncaring and hostile employers and/or insurers is a far greater cause of stress to people on workers’ compensation than their injuries and/or illnesses.

This is revealed in a survey of NSW workers presented to the state parliamentary committee that recommended drastic cuts to workers’ compensation benefits.

Carried out by the Injured Workers’ Support Network, the survey received detailed responses from more than 300 people who were either receiving workers’ compensation, in dispute over their claims or back at work in a limited capacity.

Of those surveyed, 42% nominated dealing with their employer/insurer as the biggest cause of stress. A further 20% said dealing with the workers’ compensation system was the major stress factor. Only 16% named their injury or illness as the most stressful factor.

An alarming 59% of survey respondents reported having contemplated suicide following their injury. Fifty-five percent said their relationships had suffered significantly and 34% were now separated or divorced.

Convenor for the Injured Workers’ Support Network, Michelle Burgess, said the survey showed many injured workers experienced the claims management process as hostile and uncaring.

“Unnecessary and often inappropriate pressures are being placed on many injured workers, which do not assist their rehabilitation needs,” Michelle said. “In too many cases, injured workers report that employers do everything they can to stop them from returning to work and that insurers attempt to bully them and their treating doctors into treatment schedules that ignore medically accepted treatment standards.

“Insurers routinely deny and delay treatments and then fail to monitor and manage ongoing treatments when they are finally approved.”

Poor case management by insurers who were poorly equipped to understand or appropriately manage many of the cases they receive was also a major contributing factor to cost blowouts in the workers’ compensation system, Michelle said.

“Any attempt to reduce benefits will add further hardship on people who already consider current benefits to be both unfair and inadequate.”

Apr 11

Work-related psychological injuries grossly under-reported: ISCRR

Depression - aggressiveWe have long argued that work-related psychological injuries go largely unreported,  Why is that? According to researchers at the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) the main reasons “could be that workers are less willing to claim for psychological conditions compared with physical conditions because of potential for stigma in the workplace as well as the fact that many workers’ may also be unaware they can make a workers’ compensation claim.”

We agree with this assessment.  We also know that many injured workers end up suffering  psychological injuries as a result of poor treatment whilst on workers compensation resulting from uncaring and hostile treatment  (Injured Workers Support Network Survey, 2012). 

The findings also suggest that the decision to make a compensation claim may be influenced by a worker’s jurisdiction.

Claims were much more likely to be made in major cities and inner regional areas compared with outer regional and very remote regions, with 39 per cent of work-related GP consultations not claimed in remote regions compared with 23 per cent in major cities.

This article was published in the online International Journal of Social Security and Workers Compensation.

Workers make fewer claims for psychological illnesses

Research has found that Australian workers are significantly less likely to claim GP visits for psychological illnesses on workers’ compensation than they are for physical work-related injuries like musculoskeletal disorders.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR), a joint venture between Monash University, WorkSafe Victoria and the Transport Accident Commission, and the University of Sydney.

It examined 486,400 general practitioner (GP) consultations around Australia recorded in the BEACH (Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health) research program between April 2004 and March 2009.

In these consultations, the doctor recorded whether the patient’s health problem was work-related and whether the visit was being claimed through workers’ compensation.

ISCRR’s Chief Research Officer, Dr Alex Collie, who conceived the research, said that over 22 per cent of workers didn’t make compensation claims even though their GP had determined that the illness was work-related.

“There are a number of reasons we are seeing work-related conditions not being claimed,” Dr Collie said.

“It could be that workers are less willing to claim for psychological conditions compared with physical conditions because of potential for stigma in the workplace. Workers’ may also be unaware they can make a workers’ compensation claim.”

The findings also suggest that the decision to make a compensation claim may be influenced by a worker’s jurisdiction.

Claims were much more likely to be made in major cities and inner regional areas compared with outer regional and very remote regions, with 39 per cent of work-related GP consultations not claimed in remote regions compared with 23 per cent in major cities.

Dr Helena Britt from the Family Medicine Research Centre at the University of Sydney said this was one of the first investigations into the nature of GP treated occupational health problems that are claimed and not claimed through workers’ compensation.

“Assessment and management of work-related health problems are an important part of a GP’s role. The BEACH dataset we used allows us to analyse the wide range of problems that GPs judge to be work related,” Dr Britt said.

“It’s a very unique dataset and the only one like it that exists in the world.”

Dr Collie said this research is very useful in understanding the burden of work-related injury in general practice settings, and more specifically the type and amount of work-related injury and disease that is not claimed on workers compensation systems.

Apr 11

Partner wins compensation over police sergeant’s suicide

Criminal jsuticeThis case illustrates the potential damage that can be done when management action is disproportionate to alleged misconduct. A coroner found that “everyone, including police colleagues, appeared to agree with (Sergeant Van Gorp) that the (notice) was ‘heavy handed’ for the behaviour he engaged in”.  Our deepest sympathy to Sergeant Tony Van Gorp’s family.

Partner wins compensation over police sergeant’s suicide

EXCLUSIVE

The former de-facto wife of a respected 30-year policeman who shot himself at work has won a six-figure compensation payout from Victoria Police’s WorkCover insurer.

One of Sergeant Tony Van Gorp’s children will also receive compensation after police settled both claims before a contested County Court trial this week.

Sergeant Van Gorp died on March 22, 2010, at the Healesville Police Station five days after he was served with a notice of proposed dismissal for misconduct.

Then chief commissioner Simon Overland issued the notice after Sergeant Van Gorp, 47, was found to have received, stored and sent pornographic and inappropriate emails.

Gayle Shelley told Fairfax Media she was relieved the case was resolved, but was “extremely disappointed” that Mr Overland “elected to single Tony out so dramatically”.

“Tony was a dedicated member of the Victoria Police Force for 30 years and we now want to honour the work that he did and the person who he was,” she said.

A coroner later found that “everyone, including police colleagues, appeared to agree with (Sergeant Van Gorp) that the (notice) was ‘heavy handed’ for the behaviour he engaged in”.

In his findings last May, published today by The Age for the first time, the coroner John Olle said that in the days before his death he was very well supported by family, friends and colleagues.

Sergeant Van Gorp had regarded his behaviour as stupid but thought the notice was “heavy handed”, Mr Olle said.

He said it was clear he was “suffering” from the abrupt end of his career – his resignation was accepted and effective on March 27 – but no one, including a doctor and a psychologist, believed he was at risk of self harm.

He found that the “evidence suggests that Victoria Police were aware” the effect of the notice of Sergeant Van Gorp would be “shocking”.

Mr Olle further said that central to his actions on the night of his death was that he believed “people would think less of him “over the notice but that his perspective “on this matter was not supported by the evidence …”

Ms Shelley, who had been Sergeant Van Gorp’s partner since 2004, sued after Victoria Police’s insurer rejected her initial claim.

A major dispute between the parties centred on the appropriateness of the dismissal procedure, whether it caused or contributed to any mental injury and exposed Sergeant Van Gorp to the risk of harm.

Ms Shelley’s lawyer, Craig Sidebottom, of Slater & Gordon, told Fairfax Media that the “manner in which Victoria Police dealt with Tony was both unprecedented and heavy handed”.

“The power of dismissal that resided in s68 of the Police Regulation Act should have only be exercised by the Chief Commissioner very sparingly and ought be reserved for cases involving major corruption or criminal offence.

“Section 68 is a draconian provision. There were far better alternatives available to the Chief Commissioner when dealing with these issues.”

A police spokeswoman told Fairfax Media that ‘‘as Victoria Police is not a party to the proceedings, it is not for us to comment’’.

‘‘Tony Van Gorp’s death was a tragedy and Victoria Police extend our sympathy to his family and friends,’’ the spokeswoman added.

Apr 10

Alarming figures: Big rise in work mental stress

 

bullying
W.A. seem to be the first state to have picked up on the implications of this recent report by Work Safe titled The-Incidence-of-Accepted-WC-Claims-for-Mental-Stress-in-Australia. It is quite alarming.  If we say 70% of people who suffer significant job-related stress don’t make a workers compensation claim for stress (according to this paper) and only 30%  do make a claim – this means the problem goes largely unreported.   Further,  of the 30% only 68%  (also cited in the paper) are accepted (68% of 30% = 20.4%) that would roughly mean 79.6% (100 minus 20.4)of total potential stress claims are never claimed under workers compensation.

Big rise in work mental stress

Mental stress is causing an increasing number of West Australians to take weeks off under the workers compensation scheme, with work pressure and workplace violence emerging as the biggest contributors to work-related mental stress.

In its first analysis of workers compensation claims, Safe Work Australia has revealed that in WA schoolteachers are the most likely to take time off because of mental stress.

Workers compensation claims data showed 245 teachers were granted compensation because of mental stress from 2008 to 2011, putting the State at odds with the rest of the nation where train drivers, prison officers and paramedics had the higher rates of mental stress.

SWA said 1460 WA workers took an average of six weeks off on workers compensation claims from 2008 to 2011 and the annual number of workers on compo rose steadily over five years to 505 in 2010-11.

The national policy-setting body’s chairwoman, Ann Sherry, said mental stress was costing Australian businesses $10 billion a year in lost productivity and absences and work-related mental stress typically meant workers were absent for a long time.

“These findings highlight why it is necessary for employers to be aware of stress-related issues and improve current work practices to decrease unnecessary stress in the workplace,” she said.

SWA also warned that the number of granted workers compensation claims was a drop in the ocean of the true extent of work-related mental stress. It pointed to Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing that 70 per cent of people who reported suffering from mental stress at work did not make a workers compensation claim.

Work pressure was the most common source of work-related mental stress for men and women in WA over the three years analysed, followed by exposure to workplace or occupational violence. Almost twice as many women made workers compensation claims as men in WA.

Earlier this year, ABS data showed the 28 per cent of men who were physically assaulted in 2011-12 were attacked in their workplace.

UnionsWA acting secretary Meredith Hammat said there were 13,000 physical assaults in WA workplaces over the past year, two-thirds of which were perpetrated on men.

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