CSIRO Premiums increase by $3 million in 12 months

Posted on September 3, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Just in case there are any doubts about CSIRO’s performance as an employer concerned about the Health & Safety of its employees, here are some statistics that make for some interesting reading.

Over the past 4 years, CSIRO’s health insurance premium has jumped from $1.71 million p.a. to $4.95 million p.a. (an increase of $3.24 million).  CSIRO’s rebate for effective management of workplace health and safety issues has gone from a bonus of $324K to penalties totalling $844K.

As the annual Comcare insurance premiums are based upon the frequency and cost of injury claims made by employees, one can only surmise that the number of claims have jumped significantly

The number of injuries has risen over the same period that staff numbers have decreased as a result of CSIRO’s “efficiency” initatives, including those of its Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) function!

Is CSIRO CEO, Dr Clark’s much lauded “Zero Harm” policy all that it is cracked up to be?  Obviously not!

Figures below:

Data relating to CSIRO annual premiums payable to Comcare and bonuses/penalties for FY 09/10 to FY 12/13 (inclusive)

Data relating to CSIRO annual premiums payable to Comcare and bonuses/penalties for FY 09/10 to FY 12/13.
    Penalty or (Bonus)
    (included in the premium)

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6 Responses to “CSIRO Premiums increase by $3 million in 12 months”

RSS Feed for Victims of Bullying, Harassment, and Victimisation in the CSIRO Comments RSS Feed

From: Robina Cosser To: Victims of Bullying, Harassment, and Victimisation in the CSIRO Sent: Monday, September 03, 2012 5:31 PM Subject: Good to make contact!

I have put a link to that material on the bad Apple Bullies News page : http://www.badapplebullies.com/news.htm

If you are able to link to Bad Apple Bullies or The Teachers Are Blowing their Whistles or Whistleblowing Women, that would be great, but if not, no problems.

I wish you all the best in your campaign.

My submission is number 110. I understand it will be published after the next meeting of the parliamentary Inquiry Committee on 13 September.

Please keep in contact.


Robina Cosser M.Ed. (SYD) Editor : The Teachers Are Blowing Their Whistles! Editor : Whistleblowing Women Vice President and Schools Contact : Whistleblowers Australia.

Thank a whistleblower on July 30 – International Whistleblowers Day!

Robina Cosser M.Ed. (SYD) Editor : The Teachers Are Blowing Their Whistles! Editor : Whistleblowing Women Vice President and Schools Contact : Whistleblowers Australia.

Thank a whistleblower on July 30 – International Whistleblowers Day!

There are other reasons for the increase in CSIRO’s premium. In 2010 the management of OH&S, including rehabilitation and compensation, was changed from a division-based model to a centralised model, with regional teams of OH&S professionals servicing all of the CSIRO staff across their region. This change opened up several dark and dusty OH&S cupboards and shed light on some local practices, including rehabilitation/compensation practices, long overdue for improvement. This change also enabled experienced rehabilitation case managers to spread the benefits of their expertise across regions and into parts of CSIRO that had not previously benefitted from such quality services. Moreover, these rehabilitation case managers are better placed to provide frank and fearless advice than under the previous model, as they are no longer employed by the Chiefs of divisions, but by a General Manager OH&S.

What has all of this to do with the increase in the Comcare premium? Well, due to the changes outlined above, information about workers’ compensation entitlements is being spread more effectively and consistently across CSIRO, and injured staff have better access to quality rehabilitation case management. This is encouraging employees, who would previously have neglected to report a work related injury, to obtain their entitlements. It is also encouraging reporting from those with chronic work related injuries, who have been paying their own treatment costs. Moreover, because Rehabilitation Case Managers are removed from divisional politics and from pressure associated with demonstrating that one division has fewer injuries than other divisions, they are more at liberty to recommend rehabilitation where it is appropriate and best-practice.

So it may be that the rise in CSIRO’s premium between 2009 and 2013 reflects an improvement in the provision of access to rehabilitation and compensation, and that we will see a drop in premium costs once the potential for the new OH&S model to drive improvements in injury prevention flow through.

Hi Ann

Thanks for your detailed comments.

We, Victims of CSIRO, are keen to see any real benefits of the restructure of CSIRO’s Health, Safety and Rehabilitation (HSE) group described in your posting.

We must however point out that there exists a substantial body of evidence, freely available within the public domain (for those interested in researching it), which specifically documents the factors responsible for CSIRO’s increased Comcare premium.

These include:
· A rise in the number of accepted Injury Claims from “redundant” employees.
· An increased average cost of accepted claims, due to a significant spike in psychological/psychosocial injuries
· A significant cost of the regulatory action undertaken by Comcare – in FY 2011/12 had spent $303,000 investigating breaches of OHS Act at CSIRO Entomology (now Ecosystem Sciences) which resulted in Improvement Notice

Comcare’s view of CSIRO is that its OHS practices have significantly deteriorated.

You raise an interesting point about there being a link between senior divisional oversight of OHS matters and the under-reporting of injury claims, some due to employees fearing retribution and some, as you allude to, due to the fact that OHS Managers were reporting to Chiefs. We are well aware of a large number of complaints in which injured employees have been pressured into “taking time off” out of their sick leave provisions or otherwise being advised by their respective HSE Manager that the “Comcare process” would be adversarial and confrontational and would likely fail as CSIRO would dispute the claim.

Victims of CSIRO would welcome further comments and/or feedback from you on your experiences as a former HSE Manager at CSIRO.

I’m happy to provide some further comments.

Firstly, while it may not be particularly helpful to anyone reading this, I think it’s important to understand that the increase in accepted psychological injury claims in CSIRO is part of a trend across the entire commonwealth jurisdiction, a trend that has been evident for the past few years and in relation to which Comcare has been working very hard with premium payers, including CSIRO, to address. I have worked in OHS (now WHS) and with the Comcare system in three commonwealth agencies over the past 12 years and have seen the rise and fall of trends in injury types. I understand the distress and frustration associated with the lag time between recognising a trend, understanding the causes, developing, implementing and embedding strategies to address them, then waiting to see the benefits flow through, as they slowly but surely do. I have faith in Comcare and in the premium payers and believe they will make headway in stemming the current rising tide of psychological injuries.

I was very moved by the dedication and loyalty I found in CSIRO on the part of both the scientists and those supporting them. In fact I sometimes found it to be an impediment in the area of injury management, because some “workers” (correct terminology under the new WHS Act) cared more about their project, their team and their organisation than they did about their own health and wellbeing. I worked hard to explain that this type of loyalty is misplaced, as it is in the best interests of all stakeholders that injured workers avail themselves of all of the support available to achieve a speedy and durable recovery.

That said, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to injury management. It’s not a science. What works for one person will not work for another. What is supportive and comforting for one person can be stifling, restrictive and frustrating for another. Some general truths I’ve learnt are: (1) the “rehabilitation outcome” (injury management speak) is better when the injured person retains a sense of their own responsibility for achieving their recovery and ongoing management of their injury; (2) the more an injured worker feels empowered to achieve their rehabilitation and manage their own injury, the better their rehabilitation outcome; (3) when an injured person becomes attached to the label of being injured or ill, this is a major impediment to their recovery. For me, the most important rehabilitation goal was empowering people to recover and to keep themselves safe and healthy.

Some other truths about Comcare’s claims and rehabilitation processes: (1) they are without a doubt rigorous and impose numerous responsibilities onto both the claimant (and their employer); this can be difficult and onerous for people who are coping with one or more injuries; (2) they are complex and sometimes cause confusion on the part of claimants (as well as Case Managers); (3) there are criteria, set by Comcare, for determining eligibility for compensation; disagreement between claimants and their employer, or between claimants and Comcare regarding whether these criteria have been satisfied can generate stress, if not distress, for all stakeholders; (4) as Comcare themselves acknowledge (and encourage), rehabilitation outcomes tend to be better if injuries are addressed by local “early intervention” strategies/programs, which often, but not always, resolve injuries and preclude the need for compensation claims.

I hope this has been helpful!

Dear Ann

Your post contains very sweeping statements while the experiences of individual ex-CSIRO employees we are aware of paint a picture of CSIRO managers working closely with Comcare to fight psychological injury claims, CSIRO disregarding independent medical advice and abandoning rehabilitation when Comcare claim fails at the first hurdle. Moreover, such employees are then bundled away so as not to damage CSIRO’s low Comcare premiums.

We understand this is exactly what happened at Division of Entomology where you were OHSE Manager. Are you aware of this Business Unit being subject of an Improvement Notice?

Dear Ann and the administrator,

I’ve seen you both refer to possible reasons for premium increases, but the only ‘citations’ I see come from the Administrator (which frankly, could also have been more thorough too). Ann, you’ve cited no sources at all that I can see, so I’m keen to see you rectify this. Can we hear more of your side of the story, but with some evidence linked to back up your perceptions and experiences?

Further, regarding your comments Ann, you seem to acknowledge that changing the model of insurance has facilitated claims that are now in the process of being solved: “OH&S cupboards and shed light on some local practices, including rehabilitation/compensation practices, long overdue for improvement.” If this is the case, could you direct these people to share their experiences and encourage others to claim who have received wrongful treatment? After all, if the bullying has abated and claims are now going through as you suggest, I’m sure that there are those people still within the organisation (and now outside it) who do not realise this is the case. In fact, it would only make sense for all former staff to be informed of this website and of your insight into the new insurance model, so those who have previously withheld just claims through ongoing fear of bullying could now go ahead without fear.

Other than that, I can’t see any contention here. In some capacity, the insurance premiums must have gone up because of more claims. Unless all new claims are old claims – which clearly isn’t the case given the other claims made on this website, then Zero Harm has been a noble quest, but an ultimately failed goal. Isn’t that all that the original post was saying? If claims regarding psychological injury are increasing across all govt bodies under ComCare, I’d suggest that both sides need to cite their opined reasons for increases explicitly in order to have credibility.

Having said: Ann, I’m struggling to find the thread of what you’re saying when you describe the company’s human resources as working to the point of self harm; that “workers cared more about their project, their team and their organisation than they did about their own health and wellbeing. I worked hard to explain that this type of loyalty is misplaced.” Those comments and more seem to direct blame of injury upon ‘overdedicated’ staff. This is not only a sweeping statement, but it still shows the failure of Zero Harm if it were true. I’m at a loss to see the contention: failing to safeguard employees from themselves is failing to safeguard. Further, it only sounds more likely, given this picture, that some works could have felt more strongly about their deadlines than others, and that consequently, irresponsible team leaders who were responsible for ‘overworking’ their teams might have very plausibly made for conditions under which their subordinates would fear to speak out. One supposition is as good as another here.

As a former employee, someone did attempt at one stage to bully me, but fell flat on their face. I saw no other signs in the relatively short time I was there, but I can’t dismiss the possibility that it was rife, especially as numerous other former colleagues have volunteered details of their experiences at the mere mention of CSIRO! But that’s my experience, and alone it is meaningless. You have offered your own experiences likewise – about dedication and hard work – but nothing I can get a handle on thus far that might convince me that premiums aren’t going up because of more claims, and that more claims are being made because of more bullying, as has been suggested by this site. In fact, more bullying is suggested by the mere existence of this site, and further by its surging popularity. It seems to me that if no-one believed CSIRO had a problem with workplace bullying, this blog would be a ghost town, and those who would dispute the arguments made herein would never have heard of it the first place.

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