Health Benefits of Good Work eNewsletter December 2018

Australian Signatories Steering Group Chair update

Contributor: Suzanne Jones, Chair HBGW Australian SSG

We continue to welcome the public commitment of new signatories to the Health Benefits of Good Work (HBGW) Consensus Statement and as each new organisation signs up, we do our best to support their active involvement in what is now a growing health campaign.

The Australian Signatory Steering Group (SSG) continues to champion integration of the HBGW message in industry and government sectors and to assist organisations to embed the principles into the way they do work. The Australian HBGW signatory base has now reached over 220 signatories. New signatory organisations include:

Pinnacle Rehab
AXIS Rehabilitation at Work
JobFit Systems International
Qantas Group
P2 Group
InMotion Rehab
Personal Injury Education Foundation (PIEF)
OnePath Life Limited
Australian Recovery Centres
Phoenix Pain Management Group
JK Corporate Resourcing
SafetyWorks Group
VIM Group
Workcom Pty Ltd
Alpha Injury Management
Lifeworks Health Services
Specialised Health Group
WFI Insurance
MSVS Consultancy
The Tasmanian Association of Vocational Rehabilitation Providers Inc
Australian Psychological Services
Australian Red Cross

The SSG Executive has long been committed to ensuring SSG membership is representative of the major stakeholders of the world of work. With much pleasure, we welcomed Heads of Workers Compensation Authorities (HWCA) and more recently Heads of Motor Accidents Insurance Schemes onto the SSG. Through their joint participation we hope to provide opportunity for these national schemes to have a significant voice into the HBGW campaign and the SSG’s Workplan.

The SSG continues to deepen and broaden its contact with signatory organisations. There is an array of good work being undertaken across the signatory base and the SSG is here to facilitate collaboration across signatories and to showcase best practice. If you have any initiatives or promising practices that you would like to share, please get in touch with us at
Keep an eye out for our forums in 2019 when, with much excitement, we will launch the HBGW Campaign in Northern Territory (NT) and Tasmania. Please contact me if you are from Tasmania and might like to take part in this roll out. Pam Garton, NT State Representative on the SSG, has already commenced planning for the NT’s first HBGW SSG Forum.

The HBGW LinkedIN page is a good place to keep abreast of HBGW and SSG activities as we continue to develop resources to build understanding and facilitate communication of the HBGW message. 

Our HBGW Stakeholder Executive Group is well underway with setting the strategic direction for the 2019 SSG Workplan. In 2019 our purpose is clear:

  • to continue to engage and support the Australian HBGW signatory base
  • to seek investment to develop resources and to inform SSG activities and influence industry and government sectors
  • to progress delivery of HBGW policy agenda and understanding of HBGW principles across stakeholder groups focusing on industry and government sectors
  • to ensure national stakeholder representation and opportunity for stakeholder influence on the HBGW campaign
  • to provide industry partner engagement and recognition.

Collab partnership
The Collaborative Partnership: a new approach to workforce health and productivity

Contributor: Natalie Bekis, General Manager, Strategic Research and Innovation, Comcare

The Collaborative Partnership to improve work participation is a unique public and private sector alliance of government, insurers, the medical profession and unions. It is driving new approaches to improve work participation. Founding partners include Comcare, the Department of Jobs and Small Business, the Department of Social Services, the Insurance Council of Australia, EML, the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

Each year hundreds of thousands of Australians are impacted by temporary or permanent physical and mental health conditions that prevent them from working. In remaining absent from work, they are missing out on the significant opportunity that work presents in helping their recovery and rehabilitation.

The impacts on our economy and productivity are significant. Workforce participation for working age people with temporary or permanent physical or mental health conditions has remained the same since 2003 however, the number and proportion of people with a disability working full time has decreased. Too many Australians with disability or health conditions aren’t given the opportunity to engage in work, leaving them vulnerable to long-term unemployment, disability and financial hardship.
In 2015/16 [1]  

Collab partnership 2
Australia has a fragmented work disability system that comprises a number of separate sectors, including workers’ compensation, motor accident compensation, life insurance, veterans’ compensation, disability support and superannuation. We need a better understanding of how the sectors interact and how they can work together more effectively.

People with temporary or permanent physical or mental health conditions often struggle to find work, recover at work or return to work. Employers need to improve their capacity to provide employment to meet the needs of these people.

More work needs to be done so Australians understand the link between work participation and the benefits this brings to mental and physical wellbeing.

Through the research commissioned by the Partnership and the existing evidence base, there is increasing recognition across these systems of the potential for a combined approach to more effectively influence employers, GPs and employees to achieve greater improvements in health and work outcomes.

An opportunity to create change and improve work participation
Increasing workforce participation and productivity is essential to maintaining living standards as our population ages.

Collab partnership 3A myriad of compensation and benefit systems support injured and ill Australians to engage in, recover at or return to work, but they operate in virtual isolation from each other. At the same time, we know that the sectors overlap and that what happens in one system impacts the others, with the costs often just shifting between them.

There is an opportunity to work across all these systems to get better health and work outcomes by improving service delivery, dismantling employment barriers, and making work an integral part of recovery.

Effective national action requires coordination and collaboration across the systems of income support and service provision. The Collaborative Partnership is working to create system-wide and long-term impacts through projects that address these issues. The Partnership is committed to transforming the employment prospects of people with temporary or permanent physical or mental health conditions, but it can’t happen in isolation. Our projects are targeting employers, employees, medical practitioners and the benefit systems to examine data and services, attitudes to employment, and support to help GPs get people to engage in, return to and recover at work.

Innovative projects to deliver positive change

The Collaborative Partnership is focusing on four priority projects.

Cross-sector systems project

This project involves examining data and services across compensation and benefit systems, identifying the flow of people through the systems and finding opportunities to improve services by trialing initiatives.

The Cross-Sector Project Research Report was published by Monash University in April 2018. The report mapped the ten major income support systems and began investigating the movement of people between systems. The full report can be accessed from the Collaborative Partnership website. While revealing the staggering cost of income support for work disability, it also identified the following areas of opportunity to achieve better work and health outcomes:

Collab partnership 4 
The research has so far inspired the development and trial of two initiatives that align with the areas of opportunity:

  • A collaboration between superannuation, life insurance and workers’ compensation providers to share information and gain a better understanding of the trends in claim history for an employer. The initiative is expected to identify opportunities for employers to deliver targeted interventions for earlier return to work.
  • Exploring the potential benefits of an insurance approach to case management for people receiving income support who are unemployed and have a temporary or permanent physical or mental health condition. 

Employer mobilisation project

This project looks at employers’ perspectives on employing people with work disability and aims to improve their capacity to provide employment opportunities for people with a temporary or permanent physical or mental health condition that impacts their ability to work. The project has commissioned market research into the behaviours, attitudes and intentions of employers across public, private, large and small businesses with respect to employment, retention and accommodation of people with work disability. The final report is in the final stages of development. For updates please visit the Collaborative Partnership website.   

The project will use insights from the research to scope trial interventions to help employers build their capability, capacity and willingness to take on and support people with health conditions or disability to participate in work.

GP support project

General practitioners (GPs) play a critical role in the recovery and return to work process, however there is no consistent understanding of what that role includes or where its limitations may be. This project is seeking to develop a set of GP principles that provide clarity around roles and expectations of all stakeholders involved in supporting work engagement, recovery at and return to work. 

The project is undertaking a broad range of consultations with stakeholders, including industry, employer groups, disability groups, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and other peak bodies. This work will further inform and shape the development of the principles.  

Employee awareness project

The aim of this project is to improve understanding of the health benefits of good work and promote an employees’ role in using work as part of recovery. Helping employees build skills in navigating within and between income support systems is a key component.

The project is mapping the current experience of employees accessing systems of income support to gain a better understanding of the challenges employees face. This will inform the development of best practice resources that empower employees to better navigate systems and drive their own recovery at work.

How can you get involved?
The Collaborative Partnership is seeking involvement from Australian businesses to become Project Sponsors and Associate Partners to support and guide our projects. Your involvement, whether financial or in-kind, will help us design and trial interventions that disrupt and improve our processes, with long-term impacts on work participation. To find out how to get involved please contact us via our website.

[1] Collie, A., Iles, R. and Di Donato M.F. The Cross Sector Project: Mapping Australian Systems of Income Support for People with Health Related Work Incapacity. Insurance Work and Health Group, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University (2017).

Modernisation of the Mining Industry: The impact on sedentary behaviour

Contributor: Gregory Ho BSc(OT), MOcc&EnvSaf&Hlth, MResPrac, MHFESA, COHSProf, RSP(Aust), Edith Cowan University, School of Medical & Health Sciences, 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, Perth WA 6027,  +61 8 6304 2521,


Figure 1.  Image of a haul truck driver at Mt Whaleback mine, Western Australia, in 1967 (left) juxtaposed with a worker in a modern mining control-room based in the Perth metropolitan area (right) (Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, 1967; Rio Tinto, 2010a).

The Australian mining industry has changed. Thanks to emerging technologies, the tyranny of distance no longer applies.  Where it was once required for workers to be located in far-flung locations, they can now be found in modern office facilities based in metropolitan areas, operating large-scale mining equipment, such as haul trucks, trains and drill rigs, via remote control.

As we transfer the worker from mine site to office block, so too do we remove many of the dangers to that person’s health and safety. Hazards such as heat and dust, engine fumes, noise and vibration, and the risks associated with climbing in and out of machinery. In terms of the hierarchy of controls, we have now ‘isolated’ the worker from the hazard.  

In the words of one mining CEO: “Our driverless trucks and automated train systems are just the start of a revolution that is transforming the way we work, and will result in a far better, safer industry than could have been imagined even a decade ago.” [13]

But is it safer?  Or have new hazards replaced of old ones?

Research into excessive sitting – both at work and during leisure time – has been gaining momentum over the past decade. Since Morris’ 1953 seminal study comparing London’s double-decker bus conductors with their less active colleagues, bus drivers, modern research has shown positive associations between sedentary behaviour and various specific diseases. These include cardiovascular disease [8,17], obesity [3,5], Type II diabetes [17], some cancers [8], mental distress [9,15] and early death. [1,2,4,16]  

Such research coupled with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) estimate that 3.2 million people annually die prematurely from an inactive lifestyle (WHO, 2016), has had the media reporting – somewhat sensationally – that “Sitting is the new smoking”, and “Your chair is killing you”.
However, while the research has demonstrated an association between sitting and health, there is a gap in knowledge when it comes to the sedentary behaviour of workers in modern mining control rooms.  

In late 2016, we conducted a study at a Perth-based 24-hour mining control room, with the aim of accurately measuring the sedentary behaviour of workers.[6] To achieve this aim, seven participants work Actigraph monitors for one continuous swing (three day shifts and three night shifts) and self-reported their sedentary behaviour via an activity log.

The results showed that all participants exceeded the 20 minute duration recommended by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia (2015); several participants even recorded continuous sitting periods in excess of five hours.  

The results indicated that individual variation of sedentary behaviour amongst participants was more significant than other factors that were measured. In other words, some participants spent significantly more time in prolonged sitting bouts than others, and this variation between individuals was greater than the impact of other factors, such as day versus night shift, gender or job role. 

In summary, the findings from this study indicate that the workers at this facility sit for longer than is recommended and may be at risk of sedentary behaviour-related health impacts.  Further investigation is warranted with a significantly larger sample size. 

To conclude, technology continues to change the way we work. But as we let our imagination come up with new ways of working, we must also investigate the impacts of these changes. To quote the late Alvin Toffler, American writer and futurist: “Our technological powers increase, but the side effects and potential hazards also escalate.”

1. Biswas, A., Oh, P. I., Faulkner, G. E., Bajaj, R. R., Silver, M. A., Mitchell, M. S., & Alter, D. A. (2015). Sedentary time and its association with risk for disease incidence, mortality, and hospitalization in adults a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162(2), 123–132.
2. Chau, J. Y., Grunseit, A. C., Chey, T., Stamatakis, E., Brown, W. J., Matthews, E., … Ploeg, H. P. Van Der. (2013). Daily Sitting Time and All-Cause Mortality : A Meta- Analysis. PLoS ONE, 8(11), 1–14.
3. Chau, J. Y., Van Der Ploeg, H. P., Dunn, S., Kurko, J., & Bauman, A. E. (2012). Validity of the occupational sitting and physical activity questionnaire. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 44(1), 118–125.
4. Dunstan, D. W., Kingwell, B. A., Larsen, R., & Healy, G. N. (2012). Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces postprandial glucose and insulin responses. Diabetes Care, 35(5), 976-983.
5. Healy, G. N., Dunstan, D. W., Salmon, J., Cerin, E., Shaw, J. E., Zimmet, P. Z., & Owen, N. (2008). Breaks in sedentary time: Beneficial associations with metabolic risk. Preventative Medicine, 57, 43-48. 
6. Ho, G., Reed, S., & Cross, M. (2018). The ups and downs of modern mining: Describing the sedentary behaviour of workers in a centralised mining control-room – A pilot study. Journal of Health, Safety and Environment Volume, 34(2), 159-179.
7. Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia (HFESA) Inc. (2015). Sedentary behaviour: Position on prolonged unbroken sitting time.  
8. Katzmarzyk, P. T., Church, T. S., Craig, C. L., & Bouchard, C. (2009). Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 41(5), 998–1005.
9. Kilpatrick, M., Sanderson, K., Blizzard, L., Teale, B., & Venn, A. (2013). Cross-sectional associations between sitting at work and psychological distress : Reducing sitting time may bene fi t mental health. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 6(2), 103–109.
10. Lynch, B. M. (2010). Sedentary Behavior and Cancer : A Systematic Review of the Literature and Proposed Biological Mechanisms, (18).
11. Morris, J. N., Heady, J. A., Raffle, P. A. B., Roberts, C. G., and Parks, J. W. (1953). Coronary heart-disease and physical activity of work. The Lancet. 
12. Rio Tinto. (2010a). Mine of the future [brochure].
13. Rio Tinto. (2010b). Press release: Rio Tinto launches its Operations Centre as a key part of its vision for the ‘Mine of the Future’ (25 June 2010).
14. Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography. (1967). Mt Whaleback dump truck drivers [photograph]. Perth, Australia: State Library of Western Australia. Retrieved from
15. Teychenne, M., Ball, K., & Salmon, J. (2010). Sedentary Behavior and Depression Among Adults : A Review, 246–254.
16. Van Uffelen, J. G. Z., Wong, J., Chau, J. Y., Van Der Ploeg, H. P., Riphagen, I., Gilson, N. D., … Brown, W. J. (2010). Occupational sitting and health risks: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 39(4), 379–388.
17. Wilmot, E. G., Edwardson, C. L., Achana, F. A., Davies, M. J., Gorely, T., Gray, L. J., … Biddle, S. J. H. (2012). Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetologia, 55(11), 2895–2905.

Furthering the Health Benefits of Good Work at Comcare Conference

Contributor: Anne Cherry, HBGW Executive Committee/Chair Communications Committee
Comcare Conference
We had a great opportunity to talk about the health benefits of good work at the recent Comcare Conference in Melbourne, on 18 September. 

We provided an overview of good work elements and design, as well as the HBGW Consensus Statement and the great resources and events (forums, roundtables, breakfast sessions) that the SSG has developed for signatories.

The session was well received, and no handouts were left.
Picture right: Anne Cherry, Chair of the Communications Committee and Noni Byron, Chair of the Workplace Engagement and Advocacy Committee, presenting at the Comcare Conference. 

Comcare Conference 2

HBGW Campaign’s Industry Practice Roundtables – off and running

Contributor: Anne Cherry, HBGW Executive Committee/Chair Communications Committee

On 17 September in Melbourne, we held the inaugural HBGW Industry Practice Roundtable – the first of many, we hope.

This roundtable was for large employers. We anticipate running further roundtables for different organisation sizes and industry sectors around the country. 

The roundtables differ from the HBGW forums in that they are targeted, two to three hours in duration and focused on facilitating the exchange of ideas and development of specific resources that attendees can readily apply (e.g. the Good Work Tool and the HBGW Business Case Guideline).

Andrew McGarity from NSW Fire & Rescue challenged us to think about the importance of career transition as part of ‘good work’, outlining a long list of activities/supports that have proved helpful for firefighters who need to move into a new career. 
roundtable 2
Jenna Toovey (pictured below) fascinated us with an overview of Serco’s Wellbeing Strategy which includes investment in virtual reality to support call centre workers who can be on the receiving end of some unpleasant responses. 

roundtable 3

Kirsty Jones detailed a broad range of EML’s initiatives to put HBGW into action:
roundtable 4 
EML was the kind sponsor of this event, providing attendees with a light and bright meeting room and lovely afternoon tea. Thank you EML and thank you to Kirsty Smith, Jenna Toovey and Andrew McGarity for their time in preparing and delivering thought-provoking insights into how HBGW is being put into action in their organisations.

If you are interested in hearing more about our roundtable events, please contact 

WorkSafe Victoria; Moving to a New Standard to Enhance the Health Benefits of Good Work

WorkSafe VICContributor: Kristine Gatt , Director OHS & Wellbeing, Worksafe Victoria

WorkSafe Victoria has just achieved a WELL Certified ™ Gold for its new head office in Malop St Geelong, recognising the positive health and wellbeing impacts achieved for the employees of WorkSafe. This follows on from the base building receiving a WELL Certified ™ Platinum rating, the highest possible rating that can be achieved.

Two years ago, WorkSafe Victoria set out on a journey to set a new standard of working that would positively impact their employees, incorporating good design, a consideration for new ways of operating, education and positive leadership, with good communications throughout the process. The mission was to develop a head office building with a new fit out and way of operating that could be replicated across all interiors at sites across Victoria, commencing with Shepparton as the initial regional office beyond Geelong.

The new WorkSafe Head Office is not just about the built environment as a standalone feature, it is about the interactions of people with the environment to capitalise on the benefits of a healthy and engaged workforce. This has not been an easy process but has been tackled with clear consideration of the need to take people on a journey towards a paperlite office, a more collaborative way of working and using smart technologies to free people up to move about their work environment whilst working. The desk phones are gone, and compactus storage is minimised.

WorkSafe VIC 2The building optimises the use of natural lighting in workspaces, encourages the use of internal floor stairs and has enhanced air quality and greenery throughout. The furniture enables employees to alter their working postures, move throughout their working day and make use of a variety of furniture types – all whilst minimising the emission of harmful toxins. The End-of-Journey facility contains bicycle racks for up to 10 per cent of staff at any one time, with bicycle repair tools provided. Cleaning procedures have been ratified with human health as the primary focus – using human friendly products and equipment, localising disinfection to high touch surfaces and keeping regular logs.

A range of activities and training is available to staff to enhance their self-care, including encouraging active participation in mental and physical health activities, an extensive leadership support program to enhance health and a strong peer support network. The Victorian Mental Health Charter is a strong foundation for the internal program conducted and is well recognised by leaders in the organisation.

With a move from the Melbourne CBD to Geelong, staff were given time to consider their social and professional needs, multiple information sessions and immersive experiences were available to them so they could make the right decision for themselves and their loved ones, with most opting to join the journey. Geelong has embraced the people of WorkSafe Victoria and the benefits to the local community are being realised daily with many volunteer programs and outreach engagements building; all part of our community wellbeing initiatives, a win win for all involved.


  1. Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2014
  2. The Economist, Intelligence Unit. The wellness effect
  3. Dodge Data & Analytics. SmartMarket Report 2016: The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings
  4. Coco, K. (2017). Engaging employees to foster a culture of wellness. International Well Building Institute 

HBGW LinkedIn lookback

Before you go… why not have a look back (or perhaps a first glance) at some of the most popular posts on the HBGW LinkedIn Page:

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