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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Chapter 2 - Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing

The Government is committed to ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of all its employees and officers. The Work Health, Safety and Wellbeing Unit within the State Service Management Office (SSMO) aims to improve the health and safety of the State Service workforce by:

  • developing, implementing and evaluating work health, safety and wellbeing strategies across the State Service; and
  • providing advice, coordination, consultancy and auditing services to State Service agencies on work health, safety and wellbeing, and injury and compensation management.

Activities in 2014-15

In 2014-15, SSMO continued to focus on developing stronger partnerships and improving collaboration across the State Service, with the aim of building and sustaining a safe and healthier workplace. Work has included:

  • continuing to coordinate the State Service Work Health and Safety Reference Group, which leads and supports initiatives within and across agencies;
  • leading and participating in the Public Sector Work Health and Safety Consultative Forum, which supports consultation with public sector unions on work health, safety and wellbeing matters;
  • continuing collaboration with Worksafe Tasmania and Skills Tasmania, resulting in better access to resources and keynote speakers;
  • continuing to work with the Menzies Medical Research Centre, to share knowledge and research, such as through a joint research project on ‘how mental wellness initiatives can have a positive impact on reducing work stress’;
  • working with the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Working Group to develop a service delivery model that focuses on empowering employees and building a mentally healthy environment; and
  • working with agencies to improve consistency in work health, safety and wellbeing management and monitoring and reporting systems across the State Service, including piloting an electronic WHS module that forms part of the Employee Self Service HR system.

Service-wide there has been a range of work health, safety and wellbeing initiatives implemented, many of which have been supported by SSMO, including:

  • ongoing training and awareness sessions (including online training);
  • mental health awareness sessions;
  • risk assessments; and
  • reviews of policies and practices (including hazardous material registers and relevant reporting).

Employees and officers continue to build their understanding of their workplace health, safety and wellbeing responsibilities and roles through agency-coordinated activities, training and information sharing. This includes publications on their intranets (including special work health, safety and wellbeing intranet sites), emails, newsletter items, as well as being discussion points at workplace meetings and during orientation activities.

Agencies have implemented work health, safety and wellbeing online training modules to support their employees’ awareness and understanding of workplace health, safety and wellbeing. The Training Consortium (TTC) (SSMO) also delivered three specific work health, safety and wellbeing courses for managers in all regions. TTC has continued to provide State Service employees with a range of relevant training courses and workshops covering wellbeing, such as resilience, anti-discrimination and workplace harassment during the reporting period.

Another activity supporting this priority area was SSMO’s project ‘Beyond Healthy@Work: Workplace Health and Wellbeing in the Tasmanian State Service’, which reviewed the whole-of-service Healthy@Work program that ran between 2008 and 2012. The review considered ways to leverage the successes of Healthy@Work and its successor the Tasmanian Healthy Workplace Initiative (THWI). The learnings from this review will inform whole-of-service and agency-level initiatives in years to come.

In addition, an external review of agencies’ human resources information services (HR systems) identified a number of areas to improve data capture and management processes, including work health, safety and wellbeing. The findings of this review have led to the establishment of a service-wide HR integration project which will include a pilot of an Empower module that allows for ‘real time’ reporting and monitoring, including on recorded hazard notifications, incidents, injuries, lost time, and resulting actions (including required monitoring, additional advice or training). The pilot will commence in July 2015.

Progress and next steps

The hard work in this space has been evident in the reduction of the number of workers’ compensation claims across the State Service, particularly since the introduction of the new work health and safety laws in January 2012. For example, the incidence rate of serious workers’ compensation claims for the Service has decreased by over 30 per cent during the past four to five years.

This reduction reflects the commitment by agencies, supported by SSMO to actively address work health and safety. Some of the focus areas for the next period are around reducing the incidents of serious stress-related claims and ensuring employees return to work as soon as practical after incidents.

The results of the 2015 employee survey, the People Matter Survey (the Survey), also suggest that the commitment and effort towards work health, safety and wellbeing is having positive effects. For example, 83.48 per cent of survey respondents indicated that they have received training appropriate to their roles to address work health and safety hazards, incidents and injuries in accordance with their organisation’s policies. The statement ‘I have both the opportunities and resources to support my health and wellbeing’ resulted in over 70 per cent of participants agreeing with this statement. Manager and organisational commitment to employee wellbeing resulted in more than 70 per cent of participants selecting ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ to these questions.

Areas that require further work include identifying and reduction of work stressors, and how work. health, safety and wellbeing is discussed at the workgroup level.

Continued education and investment in prevention measures was also noted in the Agency Survey as an area for further work.

Work health, safety and wellbeing is an area that requires ongoing investment and continual improvement to ensure that the Service exercises its duty of care to employees and officers, reduces direct/indirect costs of injury and sickness, and ensures the wellbeing of our employees.

The legislative basis for this workforce priority relates directly to Section 7(1)(h) and (i) and (l) of the Act:

  • the State Service establishes workplace practices that encourage communication, consultation, cooperation and input from employees on matters that affect their work and workplace; and
  • the State Service provides a fair, flexible, safe and rewarding workplace.

Employment Direction No. 27 – Work, Health and Safety prescribe the requirements for all State Service agencies in relation to managing and improving the health, safety and wellbeing of all employees and officers. In November 2012, the former Premier signed the State Service Work, Health and Safety Policy which sets out a range of tasks and priorities to improve health and safety across the State Service.

Employment Direction No. 24 – Workplace Health and Wellbeing provides direction to agencies to implement workplace health and wellbeing programs in order to increase the efficiency and productivity of the State Service through a State Service culture that values, supports and improves the health and wellbeing of employees.

Continue reading: Chapter 3 - Improving Performance Management Systems & Practices.