Auditor-General calls for new injury management targets

By Angela Dorizas

The New South Wales Government must set new injury management targets for public sector chief executives and hold them and their ministers to account on performance, the state’s Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat has said.

Mr Achterstraat has released his review of the Working Together strategy, which was developed by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, NSW Treasury and WorkCover NSW in 2005 as a means of improving occupational health and safety and injury management.

Mr Achterstraat found that under the program, agencies reduced the impact of workplace injuries and achieved some savings.

 “While the number of claims remained steady at around 21,000, there were around 5,041 less injuries,” he said.

“Staff reported injuries earlier and returned to work faster. This has resulted in savings in lower claim costs and lower workers’ compensation premiums.”

Despite the overall positive result, Mr Achterstraat said there was “still room for improvement”.

“The average cost of claims for the public sector was still 19 per cent higher than the private sector, and the incidence rate of claims for public sector workers was almost a third higher than the NSW labour force,” he said.

Mr Achterstraat said of greater concern was that improvements under the strategy were not sustained in all agencies.

“Some of the benefits and savings achieved during Working Together are being lost,” he said.

“Claims across the public sector have gone up by nearly 15 per cent, and there has been an increase of around $17 million in the cost of premiums.”

Mr Achterstraat said some agencies appeared to have lost direction and focus. This needed to be addressed as a matter of priority, he added.

“The Government needs to set new injury management targets for chief executives and hold them and their ministers to account on performance.”

Mr Achterstraat said the launch of the new Working Together Strategy 2010-1012 had addressed the first recommendation of his report.

“This new strategy should build on what has already been achieved,” he said.
Recommendations of the report

  • It is recommended that the Department of Premier and Cabinet, NSW Treasury and WorkCover NSW release the proposed new Working Together Strategy 2009-2012 by April 2010.
  • It is recommended that individual agencies set specific targets to reduce the: average cost of claims and incidence rate of claims in line with relevant industry benchmarks; number of psychological injuries where appropriate; and cost of premiums.
  • It is recommended that the Department of Premier and Cabinet require Working Together targets to be included in chief executive performance agreements.
  • It is recommended that commencing in 2009-10, NSW Treasury require public sector agencies to: refer all alleged frauds to WorkCover NSW and report performance against the Working Together targets in their annual reports.

Read the full report: Injury Management in the NSW Public Sector [PDF]

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