Agriculture Department's dangerous injuries to public servants increase

The number of Department of Agriculture public servants involved in dangerous incidents that could have killed or incapacitated them increased by more than 50 per cent in the past two years. 

In some of the 22 dangerous incidents reported in 2013-14, department staff came into contact with chemicals, electricity and hot objects and were hit by falling items.

Dangerous occurrences are near misses that could have, but did not, result in death, serious personal injury or incapacity.

The department's annual report said there were another five "serious personal injuries" – one fewer than the previous year. These included falls from a height, exposure to "non human biological factors", muscular stress with no objects being handled and one vehicle accident.

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A serious personal injury means a person needed emergency treatment by a doctor, treatment in a hospital as a casualty,  with or without being admitted,  or admission to hospital.

The department's 2013-14 annual report said it received a discount of 9.32 per cent on its 2014-15 Comcover insurance premiums.

This was because of strong performance on the 2014 Comcover risk management benchmarking survey.

"The department's summary benchmarking survey score of 8.9 was significantly above the average summary score of 7.0 for other agencies and the average summary score of 7.9 obtained by our peers," the report said. 

A department spokesman said the organisation had completed a new nationally consistent framework for ensuring the health and safety of all staff and visitors.

It had also upgraded the incident and hazard reporting system to allow for more effective identification and reporting of potential hazards and risks, and developed new instructional material and training to build the capability of all staff to identify and report hazards and manage associated risks.

In March, it was reported Agriculture had one of the highest rates of staff injury across the public service.

At the time, a spokeswoman for the department said its claim rate used to be worse and had improved  32 per cent since 2009.

"The department has a highly operational workforce that means our staff are exposed to some risks that are not present in other APS workplaces," she said at the time.