Mental health focus of WorkSafe month as workplace stress and anxiety lifts

by Matt Smith. Mercury. September 30, 2013.

A CARROT and stick approach to workplace safety has reduced the number of injuries in Tasmanian businesses.

But mental health related injuries has grown by 6 per cent in the past year.

With WorkSafe Month officially starting today, Workplace Relations Minister David O’Byrne said improving mental health and wellbeing is a major focus of the program of events to be held across Tasmania during October.

“Mental health has become one of the top five causes of injuries in Tasmanian workplaces,” Mr O’Byrne said.

“In southern Tasmania, 268 people suffered mental diseases, followed by 86 in the North West and 59 in the North.

“The top three industries in which these occurred were health and community services [107 injuries], followed by education with 68 injuries, and government administration and defence recording 48 injuries.”

Mr O’Byrne said businesses were being encouraged to implement strategies to tackle mental illness.

“With nearly half the adult population experiencing a mental illness at some point in their lives, to think it only happens outside work is burying our heads in the sand.

“Providing a healthy and safe workplace benefits all workers, including those with a mental illness.”

Addressing the issues provided benefits for both employees and employers, Mr O’Byrne said.

“Organisations that implement health and wellbeing programs are known to have increased employee morale, reduced workplace injuries and increased attraction and retention rates,” he said.

“Healthy employees are more productive, more engaged in their work, have fewer sick leave days and have greater levels of energy and concentration.”

Mr O’Byrne said workplace injuries had been reduced through a combination of legislative powers and the realisation from business that a happy workplace leads to a safe workplace.

Workplace injuries fell by about 200 incidents last year.

“Last year we had a reduction in injuries, down below 9000 for the first time in Tasmania’s history,” Mr O’Byrne said.

“That is a good news story, but unfortuantly too many Tasmanians are being injured at work.”

WorkSafe Tasmania statistics show 8974 injuries were reported last year. The most common were traumatic joint, ligament, muscle and tendo injuries.

There were 451 mental illness injuries, with 69 per cent relating to anxiety and stress.

Insurance win for teacher

by Natasha Boddy, The West Australian. September 27, 2013.

A Perth primary school teacher who was forced to give up her career because of a rare allergy and was battling her insurer for income insurance is overjoyed after the company yesterday agreed to reinstate her claims after she went public with her story.

High Wycombe grandmother Barbara Devine this week opened up to The West Australian about her battle over the past several months for income insurance from her long-term insurer MLC.

But yesterday after inquiries from the newspaper, it is understood the company advised Mrs Devine that her claims would be reinstated.

The 60-year-old was advised by her doctors to stop working as a teacher after she was diagnosed with a rare condition known as abnormal bradykinin metabolism, which means she is allergic to viruses and particularly upper respiratory infections.

“It broke my heart to give up teaching,” Mrs Devine said through tears about the difficult decision to leave the profession she had been in since she was 21.

Mrs Devine, who also has an autoimmune disease of the liver known as Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, was diagnosed with the potentially deadly allergy after several serious anaphylactic episodes which escalated over time and left her swollen and, on one occasion, struggling to breathe.

After her diagnosis and medical advice that she should stop working, Mrs Devine told her employer about her condition, took long-service leave and used a two-year salary continuance plan before resigning from her job in December and applying to her long-standing insurer MLC for income insurance.

Mrs Devine took out insurance, including income insurance, with MLC in 1998 and said she received payments from the company for about four months until a “completely unexpected” letter earlier this year advising her that her claim had been declined.

The letter said a detailed review of her claim had been completed and her claim had been declined because the medical evidence did not support her currently having an injury or sickness which meant she was unable to perform the duties of her occupation.

Melissa Payne from Shine Lawyers – the firm representing Mrs Devine – said she believed MLC had misinterpreted the terms of the policy and if Mrs Devine returned to work, she would be putting her health “at significant risk”.

She said she was seeing more and more income insurance cases and Shine Lawyers now had more than 600 cases involving income or disability insurance claims.

“Insurers don’t always get it right so if a decision seems unfair, people need to seek expert advice about whether it is unfair and some assistance to challenge the decision,” she said.

“One of the tactics that we find insurers, deliberately or not, employ is delay and sometimes people do get worn down by the delay but don’t take no for an answer.”

Mrs Devine said she took out income insurance for peace of mind but had never anticipated that she may one day need it.

She said her condition had had a big impact on her life

“Because it’s viral, I don’t mix with huge crowds of people because of that fear that I don’t know if it’s going to strike again so there’s that consciousness the whole time that I must stay in my own little world because that last attack scared the bejesus out of me,” she said.

She said she was overjoyed by MLC’s decision yesterday.

Her daughter Bronwyn Pescud said earlier this week it had been upsetting to see the emotional and financial strain her mother had been under.

“All of mum and dad’s plans for preparing for retirement have been put on hold,” she said.

Ms Payne advised people to “do their homework”, investigate an insurer’s claims payment history and seek expert advice before taking out a policy. She also advised people to seek advice if they believed an insurer’s decision was unfair.

Target date for new national law soon to be confirmed

16 September 2013.

The NHVR Board recently advised Australia’s Transport Ministers that the start date for the Heavy Vehicle National Law needs to move from 1 September 2013, due to the need for more testing of the NHVR’s critical IT system for access permits.

A new target date of 1 October was proposed at the time subject to test results. While the testing phase has gone very well, the start date for the Heavy Vehicle National Law will not be 1 October. The NHVR Board wants more preparatory work done in areas such as user acceptance, training and support for local government. A start date for later in 2013 will be confirmed shortly.

Once the new NHVR systems are ready to roll, the new rule book will apply in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. The NHVR will deal with up to 100,000 access permit applications each year, as well taking on responsibility for laws relating to vehicle standards, fatigue management and chain of responsibility.

Until the new start date, though, it’s business as usual for heavy vehicle operators and drivers. The NHVR will continue to manage NHVAS accreditation and PBS design and vehicle approvals. State and territory road transport authorities will continue to administer all other road transport business with government.

I’m grateful for the continued strong support from industry and participating states and territories for a revised start date that ensures our IT systems and processes excel when they go live, and intend to advise soon of a confirmed date for commencement of the new national law.