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Safety regulator or insurer? NSW moves to end ‘conflict of interest’
AlertForce has welcomed reforms designed to end a conflict of interest in the NSW Government’s dual role as work health and safety (WHS) regulator and insurer.
Under structural reforms introduced by the government on September 1, 2015, three discrete agencies have been created to better manage and deliver the state’s WHS and workers’ compensation insurance services.
As part of the reforms, WorkCover NSW has been replaced by three separate organisations including:
• SafeWork NSW – the independent work health and safety regulator
• State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) – the independent insurance regulator
• Insurance & Care NSW – a single customer-focused insurance and care service provider.
NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello said the new system would “iron out” the differences between the various interests that have affected the system in the past.
“These changes mark the end of the inherent conflict of interest that has existed in NSW between the operation and regulation of insurance,” Mr Dominello said.
“They allow a better focus on getting regulation right and improving workplace safety.”
Key among the reforms is the winding back of 2012 changes to the workers’ compensation scheme that resulted in the slashing of medical benefits to injured workers, including those who had lost limbs or hearing in work incidents.
Benefits were cut in response to a $4.1 billion deficit in the WorkCover scheme, which is now in surplus.
Under a $1 billion benefit enhancements program, injured workers will now have access to additional assistance to get back to work or to continue their lives.
The benefit enhancements include:
• Cover will be extended for certain classes of prostheses and aids as well as home and vehicle modifications, from retirement age to life, regardless of the level of permanent impairment.
• The cap for medical expenses, currently 12 months from when weekly payments stop (or date of injury where no weekly payments were made) will double to two years after weekly payments cease for those with up to 10% permanent impairment and increase to five years after weekly payments cease for those with 11-20% permanent impairment.
• The maximum lump sum compensation payable for injury resulting in greater than 10% permanent impairment will be more than doubled – from $220,000 to $560,000.
• If you have more than 21% permanent impairment and have some work capacity, you will no longer have to work more than 15 hours per week to get weekly payments after 130 weeks (2.5years).
• If you have 21% or greater permanent impairment medical expenses will be payable for life.
• If you have more than 30% permanent impairment you will receive an increased minimum benefit of $788 per week which will be indexed to CPI, providing a safety net for those with lower weekly wages at the time of their injury (particularly for younger workers with highest needs).
• All injured workers who return to work with a new employer will get ‘return to work assistance of up to $1,000 to assist with the transition.
• Education and retraining grants of up to $8,000 will be provided for workers who have been receiving weekly benefits for 78 weeks (18 months) or more to improve the opportunity to return to work.
• Families of deceased workers will have access to an increased death benefit of $750,000 – up substantially from the current $524,000.
• The maximum amount that will be payable for funeral expenses of a deceased worker will increase from $9,000 to $15,000.
In addition to enhanced benefits for workers, businesses will receive five-20 per cent discounts for maintaining safe work places and helping injured employees return to work.
Implications for AlertForce and clients
Approval, accreditation and agreements for registered training organisations (RTOs) will continue to operate under NSW Work Health and Safety legislation, which is now administered by SafeWork NSW.
Over the coming months WorkCover NSW forms will be re-branded as SafeWork NSW. Until then, AlertForce will continue to use all WorkCover NSW branded forms including applications, Statements of Training (SOTs) and Notices of Satisfactory Assessment (NSAs).
All business as usual enquiries to SafeWork NSW for RTOs can continue via phone 13 10 50 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
AlertForce will amend the branding of its website over the coming months from WorkCover NSW to SafeWork NSW, when referring to approvals or WHS training.
What this means for SafeWork NSW
The new SafeWork NSW continues to offer the full range of WHS services across NSW.
Its inspectorate continues to provide advice, as well as undertake compliance and enforcement activities and conduct investigations.
Existing partnerships, sponsorships, agreements and memorandum of understanding will remain in place.
Authorised training and assessment providers will continue to provide critical services to its customers on SafeWork NSW’s behalf.
For further information, assistance and advice continues to be available via the SafeWork NSW website (www.safework.nsw.gov.au) and customer service centre (13 10 50).
AlertForce offers nationally recognised WHS harmonisation training courses covering the NSW WHS Act. Go to https://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/ohs-harmonisation-course/
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