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Slater and Gordon’s Insights into the importance of Safe Work Month


By Campbell Woollacott and Chez Memeti, Slater and Gordon 

October is Safe Work Month. 

Safe Work Month is the perfect time to have conversations with your colleagues, your union delegates and your union about safety in your workplace. These conversations provide an opportunity to identify health and safety hazards and report them to your employer for action and resolution. Slater and Gordon's workers' compensation lawyers speak with workers every day who have suffered an injury at their place of work. Unfortunately, many have suffered injuries that have had a major impact on their lifestyle and financial situation. 

During these conversations, there is a constant theme; more could have been done by my employer to prevent my injury. Quite often an injury could have been prevented if an inexpensive solution to a safety issue or hazard had been implemented to eliminate the risk of a workplace injury. 

Whilst it is a great time to start the conversation this month, our focus on maintaining a safe working environment should continue well after Safe Work Month ends. 

Working Safe during COVID-19 

It has been a challenging year for all Australians. In Victoria, some of us have had to deal with tighter and longer restrictions than the rest of the country. For many HACSU members, working during COVID-19 has been challenging for many reasons. Whilst some Victorians have been able to continue working from home in a remote setting, many have not. 

Many workers in the health services' sector have continued to work in their usual workplaces throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns in Victoria exposing them to the potential risk of infection. Whilst the messaging from the Federal and State governments about maintaining social distancing has been clear, it certainly is not achievable in every line of work. 

Working amidst a pandemic with a dangerous virus presents a litany of safety challenges. Whilst we all continue to wear our facemasks when we leave our home, it is imperative that those working with others (clients, patients or colleagues) ensure that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is worn in line with government recommendations. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has provided advice for those working in the Health and Disability sector during COVID-19. This information is easily accessible through the DHHS website.  

PPE has long been a critical component of Safe Work practices in this state. The provision of adequate and appropriate PPE has helped employers provide employees with safer working environments for decades. Now more than ever, employers need to ensure that employees are adequately equipped with PPE during the ongoing and unpredictable COVID-19 crisis. It is not enough for employers to provide PPE to their employees, they need to ensure that staff are aware of how to clean their PPE where appropriate and necessary, how and when it will be replaced. 

Making a workers' compensation claim 

If you sustain an injury that could be related to your employment, you should: 

  • See a doctor for treatment and provide the details about the way you were injured. Clinical records of your discussion with your doctor will become important evidence in establishing that your injury is work-related. 
  • Report the injury to your employer in writing within 30 days of becoming aware of the injury. For example, injured workers can complete an injury or incident report at work. 
  • Obtain a WorkCover Certificate of Capacity from your treating health practitioner. 
  • Complete a Workers' Injury Claim form
  • Submit the completed Workers' Injury Claim Form and WorkCover Certificate of Capacity to your employer. Your employer is obligated to forward your claim documents to its WorkCover insurer. 
  • The WorkCover insurer has a further 28 days from date of receipt the claim documents to make a decision regarding acceptance of your claim ('deliberation period'). 
  • The WorkCover insurer may arrange for you to attend an Independent Medical Examination during the deliberation period. 
  • During the deliberation period, the WorkCover insurer may arrange for a private investigator to contact you and your colleagues to make a statement. You are not obligated to make a statement to the investigator. 

What happens if your WorkCover claim is accepted? 

If your WorkCover claim is accepted, you will commence receiving your WorkCover statutory benefits including weekly payments of compensation and the provision of reasonable medical and like expenses for your accepted injury. This includes things like physiotherapy treatment and prescribed medications. Remember to keep all receipts related to medical treatment so that you can seek reimbursement for medical expenses from the WorkCover insurer once your claim has been accepted. You will also be required to provide valid WorkCover Certificates of Capacity every 28 days in order to continue to receive weekly payments of compensation. 

Injured workers may be entitled to lump-sum compensation in the form of an Impairment Benefit lump-sum and a Common Law Damages claim. Contact HACSU on 1300 651 931 to allow us to arrange a priority referral to Slater and Fordon o ensure access to the great discounts and benefits we offer HACSU members, and to discuss your potential lump-sum entitlements. 

What happens if your WorkCover claim is rejected? 

If your claim is initially rejected, do not panic. Injured workers can challenge WorkCover insurer decisions that they disagree with via a process called Conciliation. In Victoria, Conciliation is managed by the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service (ACCS). You must challenge the adverse decision within 60 days of the decision. If you are disputing a decision more than 60 days since receiving the decision, you must provide reasons for late lodgment. 

If your claim is rejected, contact the HACSU team on 1300 651 931 immediately for further assistance and potential referral options to Slater and Gordon. For more information about the conciliation process, click here

About the authors 

Campbell Woollacott 

Campbell is a lawyer at Slater and Gordon's Frankston office and specialises in Workers' Compensation. Campbell is a dedicated and passionate lawyer who is driven to help his clients overcome challenging and difficult situations. Away from work, Campbell enjoys playing soccer and supporting the St Kilda Saints! 

Chez Memeti 

Chez is a lawyer at Slater and Gordon's Cranbourne office and specialises in Workers' Compensation. Chez is passionate about helping injured workers to get the best possible outcome from their workers' compensation claim. In her spare time, Chez enjoys coffee, reading and outings with her husband and three children. Chez is a fan of the Carlton Blue Baggers! 

Slater and Gordon + HACSU 

Slater and Gordon have proudly partnered with HACSU and represented its members for many years. As a HACSU member, Slater and Gordon provide discounted legal services and benefits in the following areas: 

  • Workers' Compensation 
  • Motor Vehicle Accident Claims 
  • Asbestos and Dust Disease Claims 
  • Superannuation and Disability Claims 
  • Medical Law 
  • Public and Product Liability 
  • Industrial and Employment Law 

Slater and Gordon offer exclusive services to HACSU members in the following areas: 

  • Wills and Estate Planning, including Free Standard Wills for members and their spouse/ partner
  • Family Law 
  • Criminal Law 

To access these discounted services*, contact the HACSU Assist team today on 1300 651 931 or 9340 4100 who will arrange a priority referral to Slater and Gordon to ensure your access to these benefits and discounted legal fees. 

*Conditions apply. See for details.