Preventing dust disease in the open-cut sector
Early this year, an isolated case of mixed dust (coal and crystalline silica) pneumoconiosis was confirmed in NSW. The affected worker had worked at a number of open-cut mines throughout NSW during their 30-year career before leaving the industry in 2014.
We can’t guarantee there will be no further cases. No matter how strong the regulatory framework and prevention and detection services that we have in place, there is always room for improvement.
To date, our collaborative model in NSW has focussed primarily on dust monitoring and health surveillance for underground workers. In our industry there is a known data gap regarding the open-cut sector. To rectify this we have commissioned research, including a targeted monitoring program, to determine the true risk profile of open-cut workers. The results of this project will direct health surveillance programs specifically for this risk profile.
Again, we encourage any worker, current or retired, who has concerns about their health to contact their nearest Coal Services office. Even after leaving the industry, workers are entitled to attend health assessments at CS Health.
Impact of the industry’s operating environment on the Scheme
The contraction of the industry continues to present a challenge for our Specialised Health and Safety Scheme. Fewer exposed to risk workers and a lower assessable wages pool has resulted in reduced premium income for the Scheme. Our target premium collection rate has been stable for five years but as we head into 2017-18 we have had to review our approach.
Different claims patterns appear to be emerging and these, along with a marked deterioration in return to work performance, are driving up claims costs. The claims frequency rate still sits at less than six per cent, but for the first time in many years, is trending upwards.
To meet these challenges, the Coal Mines Insurance (CMI) Board determined that the Target Premium Collection Rate (TPCR) for the 2017-18 policy year will be set at 3.25% of covered wages. This is a minor increase from the current rate of 3.20% that has been held for the last five policy years and sets the TPCR at a rate that is low in comparison to other schemes. The decision to increase the TPCR took into account the advice of CMI Scheme Actuary, Finity Consulting; as well as the trend in increased claim costs; the current environment in which the NSW coal industry is operating and the need to support industry through premium stability.
It is worth noting that the deterioration in the claims rate is not due to changes in internal practices within CMI. We have identified key areas for improvement that will drive improved efficiency, consistent processes and tailored injury management plans. In addition, the commencement of the Quality Centre as part of the new case and account management model is expected to drive further improvements with respect to claims performance.
Our experience has shown that early reporting, intervention and treatment produce the best social and financial outcomes for injured workers, employers, our communities and the Scheme. We are working with all parts of our industry to encourage a truly collaborative approach to injury prevention and injury management. For example, providing suitable duties wherever possible, return to work opportunities, to report all incidents (lost time and non-lost time) within 48 hours and to continue all efforts to promote safe systems of work to prevent incidents and injuries occurring in the first instance.
A reminder about employer obligations: Employers are required by legislation, and the terms of your CMI workers compensation insurance policy, to disclose workplace injuries to CMI within 48 hours of becoming aware of the injury.
If you have any questions about your obligations please contact your local CMI Regional Manager who will be able to help.