Older worker claims rate reason unclear


The safety rate of self-insured transport and logistics firms under the Comcare system over the past five years has been exemplary but mystery surrounds figures for older workers. <br /><br /> Comcare has released to ATN claims performance figures by age-group for the six self-insured transport, postal and warehousing (TPW) firms that joined the scheme before 2006-07 are Australian air Express, Asciano, Australia Post, K&S Freighters, Linfox Australia and Linfox Armaguard. TPW is the sector is defined for government purposes and individual company breakdowns are not given.

By Rob McKay | December 14, 2011

The safety rate of self-insured transport and logistics firms under the Comcare system over the past five years has been exemplary but mystery surrounds figures for older workers.

Comcare has released to ATN claims performance figures
by age-group for the six self-insured transport, postal and warehousing (TPW) firms that joined the scheme before 2006-07 are Australian air Express, Asciano, Australia Post, K&S Freighters, Linfox Australia and Linfox Armaguard.

TPW is the sector is defined for government purposes and individual company breakdowns are not given.

The figures show a general
18 percent reduction in accepted claims.

All age groups except 55 and over recorded a fall, with
accepted claims for the oldest cohort rising 20 percent since 2006-07.

The next worst performance was for 45-54, which showed a 7 percent fall, followed by Under 25, with an 11 percent fall.

The outstanding performers were 25-34 and 35-44, with falls in accepted claims of 45 percent and 34 percent respectively.

Comcare has said that two of the six firms were responsible for the 55 and over anomaly and the other four firms recorded a reduction.

It has so far refused to say if the anomaly pertains to the 45-54 age group as well.

ATN understands that trucking operators and their companies
saw a reduction in claims.

What Comcare would say was that there may be several factors at work affecting the older age group.

"Over the period 2006–07 to 2010–11, workers aged 55 years and over accounted for a growing proportion of accepted claims," the agency says.

"However, this increase may simply reflect larger numbers of workers in this age group within the ‘transport, postal and warehousing industry’ rather than increased risk of injury.

"Workforce data is not available for licensed self-insurers which makes it difficult to determine whether a particular age group has an increased risk of injury.

"We have access to a large store of claims data to understand trends and patterns, however, this only provides part of the picture.

"Comcare notes the aging workforce in APC [Australia Post] and has been engaging with APC and other licensees on this issue."

What the data also shows is that accepted claims for those 55 and over as a percentage of all claims grew from 14 percent in 2006-07 to 21 percent in 2010-11.

For 45-54, it was 35 percent to 39 percent.

The changes in proportion for 25-34 and 35-44 were 16 percent to 11 percent and 32 percent to 25 percent.

Asked how Comcare was tackling the poorer performing companies, a spokewoman says it has two broad regulatory approaches.

In reaction to a specific incident, Comcare can apply a variety of regulatory responses from education through audit and inspection, to investigation.

"Within these responses, Comcare can apply a range of tools such as statutory notices and prosecution action to enforce safety compliance as well as achieving - where necessary - a justice [sic] outcome," she says.

"In applying these tools and approaches, Comcare uses its unique position nationally to consider the event beyond the local circumstance, and examine the businesses safety systems, chain of responsibility, and other possible problem areas nationally.

"That is, one event not only can create an immediate site visit from a Comcare inspector, but can also lead to a number of proactive inspections across the country at other sites within days."

In relation to trends and patterns, Comcare has two broad proactive approaches – a safety outcome and a health outcome, the spokeswoman adds.

"Comcare has the capacity to work with employers to provide best practice advice and guidance to employees on specific risk factors. Comcare tends to enact this process in a cooperative compliance manner – i.e. without use of powers - as we find the best impact in the workplace is not created from the deterrent of the regulator, but from the workplace owning and investing in its own safety outcomes to benefit all.

"Comcare has the capacity to work with employers to target long term health issues (such as aging workforce, mental health, chronic disease impacts in the workplace) in order to improve working conditions but also impact on longer term safety performance. Comcare has no authorised ‘powers’ in this area of work, however, we find that businesses are willing to invest in better health outcomes that improve productivity."

On another level, the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Commisson (SRCC) operates as the regulator for self-insurance licensing matters.

Comcare advises the SRCC on three broad conditions of licence - rehabilitation, prevention, and claims performance.

Hence, the SRCC considers poor safety performance as a condition of self-insurance licensing.

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