We received a disturbing email from an injured worker’s spouse regarding the manner in which workcover surveillance was conducted on at least two occasions. The rightly bewildered spouse writes that “they have captured other family members including young children in their footage (in the same screen shots as my injured spouse) They have also recorded my (the uninjured spouse) daily movements alone with my child in surveillance logs.” Whats perhaps most disturbing is that survillance was even conducted on the day of their toddler’s birthday party with children arriving (just before the 130 week mark (in Vic). The writer states that (this surveillance) is just “creepy and just wrong on so many levels!” And we fully agree!
The uninjured spouse put in a complaint about the PI firm filming their young child and other family members to Woksafe and received the usual standard “no wrongdoing found in their ‘investigation’ with no further elaboration”.The bewildered uninjured spouse also filed a FOI request for the investigation file and stated they received it “with some docs omitted, What docs that the spouse was sent didn’t provide much more.”
The worksafe “investigator” also made a comment in his/her notes that the spouse was a “mess to call” !
“It would be great if I could stop them from filming my family again, don’t want to make the neighbors paranoid & tell them that their kids could be filmed anytime by a voyeur parked at the top of the street. I want to take this further to set a precedent that filming kids is not acceptable. Any ideas?”
Workcover Surveillance: Creepy and wrong on so many levels
Unfortunately this is a common scenario and we are aware of many inappropriate surveillance methods, including but not limited to trespassing private property, and filming young children – not to mention the psychological harm this inflicts on the injured workers.
For example: A Cranbourne man injured at work was shocked to find a private investigator had tailed and filmed him shopping and walking his children to school.
The man, who did not wish to be named, only learned about the surveillance after his solicitor put in a freedom of information request to WorkSafe for any surveillance material relating to his injury claim.
“It didn’t feel right,” he said. “It’s not fair to my children and family for them to be filmed and be involved. I’m injured but they make you feel like you’ve done the wrong thing. I just want to get better and go back to work.”
Ms Kearney said her firm had acted for hundreds of injured workers in the Casey-Dandenong area, of whom many had been spied on by investigators working for insurance companies contracted to WorkSafe, whose guidelines stipulated surveillance should only be used where there was some suspicion of fraud.
Ms Kearney said her clients had expressed fear and frustration after discovering they had been filmed while engaging in everyday activities that had no bearing on their injuries.
“This unwarranted and unnecessary surveillance often makes injured workers feel as though they are being treated as criminals.”
Figures released by WorkSafe showed that in 2010-11 it spent $13.7 million watching 6675 people who had made claims over workplace injuries. The surveillance resulted in the prosecution of just 18 people.
“In our experience, it is rare that surveillance investigation leads to a worker being prosecuted or a claim being reduced or dropped,” Ms Kearney said.
“Often we see cases where we know surveillance has been undertaken but the film is ultimately never relied upon and the money spent is of no value to anyone.”
WorkSafe spokesman Michael Birt said surveillance was not carried out as a matter of course but where there was a discrepancy, or an issue had been raised, sometimes as a result of a call from the public.
“There are about 90,000 people on the system and 29,000 new people every year. Any business checks its outgoings. It’s part of due diligence.”
He said surveillance was not solely to stop people who were doing the wrong thing but also to look at their capacity for work. “They might not be able to go back to their old job but they might be capable of some work.”
Last year and following a shocking surveillance story from an injured worker on our forum, we highlighted in an article entitled “Workcover private investigators must adhere to Act and Code of Conduct“ that the private investigators are bound by a code of conduct and are, for example, not allowed to trespass private property.
The WorkCover Authority (VIC and all states) considers that surveillance of an injured worker is a legitimate tool for management of a claim, however, the WorkCover Authority does issue of code of conduct to its investigators under which they are expected and bound to operate. Click here for PDF document Code of Practice for Private Investigators
The Code of Practice clearly states that “In performing all activity in connection with instructions, the Investigator agrees to be bound by the Information Privacy Principles set out in Schedule 1 to the Information Privacy Act (Vic.) and the Health Privacy Principles set out in Schedule 1 to the Health Records Act 2001(Vic)”;
“All surveillance activity must comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations [including the Private Security Act 2004, the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 (Vic) , the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) , the Information Privacy Act 2000 (Vic), Health Records Act 2001 (Vic)”;
“An Investigator must avoid any actions which may unreasonably impinge on the privacy or other rights of other people (eg, when taking photographs, avoid including, where practicable, other individuals such as relatives and friends, who may be in contact with the surveillance subject during the surveillance period).”
As we wrote in our previous article:
Private investigators and complaints
In Victoria, the licensing of private investigators is handled by Victoria Police under the Private Security Act 2004. More information from the , including contact info for the licensing service.
Complaints can be lodged with the service.
There’s also a Private Investigators Code of Practice for investigators undertaking work for Worksafe Victoria
The governing legislation is the Commercial Agents and Private Inquiry Agents Act 2004
The licensing is administered by the NSW Police Commercial Agents and Private Inquiry Agents Unit. Complaints can be directed to this Unit.
Private investigators (and security providers) operating in Queensland must be registered under the Security Providers Act.
You can lodge your complaint with the Office Fair Trading which administers this act. Contact information for the Office of Fair Trading.
In South Australia, private investigators are licensed by the Office of Consumer & Business Affairs (OCBA) under the Security and Investigation Agents Act.
Here’s some more information from the OCBA site.
Contact information for the Office of Consumer & Business Affairs
Private investigators in Western Australia are licensed under the Security and Related Activities (Control) Act.
This act is administered by the WA Police.
More information from the WA Police website, including contact information for Police Licensing Services.
In Tasmania, private investigators are licensed under the Security and Investigation Agents Act 2002:
The act is administered by the Commissioner for Corporate Affairs.
Complaints can be lodged with Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading
In the Northern Territory, private investigators are licensed under the Commercial and Private Agents Licensing Act 1979.
The act is administered by the Office of Consumer Affairs.
Contact information for Consumer Affairs NT.
It appears that ACT does not require private investigators to be licensed!
More information: http://www.alrc.gov.au/
Private Policing of Insurance Claims Using Covert Surveillance
This article (paid $37) presents the findings of an examination into private policing of surveillance in injury claims. The article examines the main assumptions in academic and legislative discourse relating to the regulation and control of surveillance within an insurance claim environment. The data is based on Australian 378 insurance claims where the insurer considered undertaking surveillance. The article describes and analyses the results of covert optical video surveillance of claimants in Australia. Specifically, it documents the use of surveillance by insurance companies more as a claims management tool rather than as a means of gathering evidence for future criminal fraud prosecutions. See: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19361610.2013.794406#.UdPB8dhmMfw