Building the capability of Investigators
Comcare has focused on enhancing investigator capability at both the organisational and national level. This has included establishing a strategic partnership with a registered training organisation Diverse Training Concepts to design, develop, deliver and assess national qualifications. During 2009-10 Comcare enrolled more than 70 per cent of its Investigators in the Cert IV investigations course. Comcare employee, Tom talks about his role as an Investigator.
For law graduate Tom, the decision to become a Comcare Investigator was a natural one. A member of the 2008 Graduate Program, he did a first rotation in Occupational Health and Safety Policy and had a natural interest in compliance and regulation. But it was the chance to transfer back to his hometown of Brisbane and avoid another Canberra winter that gave him the opportunity to take up the role.
"I couldn't handle another Canberra winter," joked Tom. "In winter I wouldn't be anywhere else but Brisbane."
Working at the "coalface" is something Tom takes very seriously however.
"As a Comcare Investigator, federal workers are the people we deal with everyday. It is imperative for me to remember that at the start of every reactive investigation is an injured person or a family who has lost a loved one due to a workplace incident. These people are the reason we are here-we are ensuring these incidents don't happen again."
When visiting a workplace where a serious incident has occurred, Tom is very aware of the impact on staff.
"When I attend the site of a serious incident, staff are often very distressed and a highly visible vest with 'Investigator' written on it is often very confronting," he said. "Managing these emotions is a real challenge. Getting to know federal workers and give them an understanding of the way we do business often puts them at ease."
For Tom, seeing significant change take place in the safety culture of a workplace is what his job is all about.
"In many workplaces health and safety is not at the forefront of employers' minds. Being a Comcare Investigator I am able to really focus Commonwealth employers on promoting health and safety in the workplace. I have seen organisations completely change the way they engage with staff and do their business as a result of Comcare involvement."
How does he feel about having to issue an employer with a notice?
"In some cases employers will need to be brought to a 'justice outcome' as a result of a workplace incident. Although it is not the biggest or most pleasant part of my work, prosecution and issuing of improvement or prohibition notices are vital tools Comcare must use to ensure federal workers' health and safety is protected at work."
Tom said it was critical that in all his dealings with external stakeholders he showed "consistency, reliability, decisiveness and compassion."
Investigative training has given Tom the skills and confidence to make "tough calls, conduct investigations, issue notices, take statements and conduct records of interviews". In short, he said his training allowed him to "discover the safety issue and fix it".
Most recently Tom took part in the Certificate IV training offered by Comcare Conducted by Diverse. He said this had given him the "skills necessary to ensure that when a serious and preventable workplace incident has occurred it is investigated effectively and efficiently". He said the training made sure all Comcare Investigators had the "best practice model for conducting government investigations". In turn, this would mean "more consistent, effective and timely" investigations for stakeholders.
Tom is also furthering his academic education with a postgraduate degree in law. He said Comcare was very supportive of this and flexible with providing leave for study.
"The work-life balance at Comcare is fantastic. The flexibility of my line managers is genuine." He said working remotely was always available as an option for him, thanks to Comcare's laptop docking stations and wireless internet.
Thank you guys, you helped me achieve my goal
"I am really pleased to have the opportunity to let you guys know that getting my Cert IV in Govenment through you was the smartest decision I ever made. Your comprehensive tutor support was great. I just landed a top position with a federal ACT agency thanks to the qualification I got."