Workplace Incidents and Reporting in Australia
Workplace health and safety (WHS) is a serious issue that can impact your staff, compromise your reputation, and affect your entire operation. In Australia, a range of health and safety measures are designed and enforced by Safe Work Australia. If you work in transportation or any other industry sector, reporting workplace incidents is an important part of meeting your compliance obligations.
What is Considered a Workplace Incident?
Under WHS rules, you must notify a local regulator of any serious health and safety incident. These events are referred to as ‘notifiable incidents’, and they include injuries, illnesses, and other dangerous events that occur at work. The notification process is designed to identify the cause of the incident and prevent it from happening again, both at your site and elsewhere.
What Are Notifiable WorkSafe Incidents?
The following events are considered notifiable incidents:
- the death of a person
- a serious injury or illness
- a dangerous incident that creates risk, even without injury
Notifiable incidents can affect any person, including employees, contractors, customers, visitors, or other members of the public. The incident notification information sheet includes specific types of incidents that need to be reported. This is a mandatory requirement under WHS laws in Australia; and it has a significant impact on the road transport, freight, and trucking industries.
Who is Obligated to Report the Incident?
The requirement to report notifiable incidents applies to anyone who is conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). In the freight or transport industry, this may include business owners, operational managers, warehouse managers, individual truck drivers, and anyone else on the production line such as the workers unloading the trucks and securing truck tarps and load restraints.
The said person has a primary duty of care to ensure the health and safety of workers, visitors, and all others who may be affected by work activities. This applies to any incident that takes place in the business or undertaking of work. Filing an incident report is part of the PCBUs primary duty of care, which includes managing risks; providing adequate facilities; consulting with workers and representatives; and providing instruction, training, and supervision.
Who is the Incident Reported to?
Under WHS guidelines, the PCBU is obliged to report the incident and preserve the site. The incident must be reported to the WHS regulator immediately, and the site must be left as-is until an inspector arrives or provides direction. It’s important to note, however, that preserving the site should never interfere with providing emergency assistance to the person involved in the incident.
Depending on your operational jurisdiction, incident notifications should be made directly to state, territory, or Commonwealth WHS regulators. Along with making the report and preserving the site, you should keep a record of the accident in line with local regulations. If you operate an interstate trucking company, you may have to satisfy different regulations based on the location of the incident and the details of the contract. If you need specific advice on the notification process, please contact your WHS regulator.
What Does the Report Entail?
If a notifiable incident occurs at your workplace, a WorkSafe incident report must be made in accordance with Workplace Health and Safety legislation. When done correctly and in a timely manner, this process plays an essential role in the incident response. It notifies authorities, helps to prevent future incidents, and helps to satisfy compliance demands placed on the PCBU and organisation.
Once the right people have been notified, you need to complete an incident report form. The information listed below is generalised, and differences may exist between jurisdictions:
Name of the injured/involved person
- Occupation or job title
- Age, gender, and other personal data
- Time and date of the incident
- Exact location of the incident
- Industry sector and roles involved
- Description of the incident and injury
- Description of any treatment provided
- Nature of the injury or illness
- Particular body parts affected
- Names and contact details of witnesses
- Date of entry in the register
- Name of the person making the entry
What Types of Injuries or Illnesses Does This Include?
These reporting obligations affect any serious injury or illness, as long as it’s work-related. While only the most serious health and safety incidents are notifiable, this includes a range of possible scenarios. In Safe Work Australia documentation, incidents are listed according to the type of treatment required. It covers immediate treatment:
- As an in-patient in a hospital
- For amputation
- For a serious head injury
- For a serious eye injury
- For a serious burn
- For a skin separation injury
- For a spinal injury
- For loss of bodily function
Immediate treatment refers to the urgent medical treatment carried out by a registered medical practitioner, paramedic, or nurse. A report is also needed for any medical treatment delivered within 48 hours of exposure to a substance. Exposure events can affect the trucking industry, both during warehousing and transportation. Possible dangerous substances include chemicals, airborne contaminants, and human and/or animal blood and body substances.
Along with accidents and exposure incidents, notification is also needed for the following serious illnesses:
- Infections related to carrying out work
- Occupational zoonoses contracted during work
Investigations and Prevention
Some workplace incidents need to be investigated, based on the nature of the event and the information presented in the report. The relevant authority will assess the incident based on the following information:
- Severity or potential severity
- Level of risk
- Number of people involved
- The complexity of the situation
A formal incident investigation procedure helps to determine the contributing factors involved in the incident, which can also affect the incident response. Examples include workplace accidents, exposure events, environmental hazards, and near-misses. During the investigation, all relevant details about the incident are recorded to support insurance claims, workers’ compensation claims, and legal proceedings. The report process helps to ensure compliance with applicable legislative requirements, and it also helps to eliminate or reduce future risks.
Along with investigating incidents, measures are needed to help prevent future events. To eliminate or reduce the risk of the same incident happening again, you need to perform a risk assessment. During this process, it’s important to identify workplace hazards, review safety equipment, and look into current and potential training routines. Incident reports are not just about compliance, they’re also about taking stock, being prepared, and reducing risk for the future.
Safety is Top Priority
Reporting workplace incidents is crucial for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment, not only for employees but also for employers. In Australia, there are legal requirements for reporting workplace incidents that need to be followed. It’s imperative for employees to be aware of these laws and understand the process of reporting incidents. Safety should be every workplace’s top priority, no matter the industry. If you have any questions regarding workplace incidents, we recommend reaching out to Safe Work WA for advice on your individual scenario.
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