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December 2017 – NSW coal industry injuries fall, but RTW needs focus

Despite a fall in the number of new claims received by Coal Mines Insurance (CMI), return to work rates and claims costs continue to be a concern for the NSW coal industry workers compensation Scheme.

Statistics show there was a 2.6 per cent reduction in the number of new claims received by CMI for the year ending 30 June 2017, however; claims costs climbed 15.7 per cent to $92 million. This was due, in part, to increased medical costs, legal claims, common law and redemption settlements and industrial deafness payments.

Narelle Caldwell, General Manager Insurance, said that more than half of all new claims were classed as ‘significant injury’ claims which had increased slightly on the previous year.

“The small increase in this type of injury may be due to falling return to work rates and availability of suitable duties that we have seen over the last year. Under the legislation, a worker is counted as having sustained a significant injury if they are likely to be incapacitated for a continuous period of more than seven days.”

Following the new claims review conducted earlier this year, CMI focused on improving return to work rates in the 0-13 week cohort by working with employers to provide suitable duties for workers and report injuries within the legislated time frame.

“The return to work rate in this early cohort has improved significantly and currently sits at around 90 per cent. This is really great work for everyone involved. We have also stabilised deterioration in the 13-26 week cohort and the 52-78 week measure,” explained Narelle.

Narelle stressed that it was critical that employers report injuries within 48 hours and the link to return to work rates.

“It really is important that all injuries are reported early so that the appropriate interventions can commence. If reporting is delayed then it may affect recovery time or even contribute to secondary injuries or aggravation,” she said.

“Ultimately, returning people to work is best for everyone. All the research shows that returning people to full employment is far better for their health and well being than being away from work. For employers, it saves on labour costs and helps their premium and for our Scheme it results in lower liability going forward.”