Employers are required by law to report certain incidents at work. These specific circumstances are deemed 'notifiable incidents'. While ideally the proper controls have been put in place to prevent incidents from happening in the first place, they do occur. Reporting them to work health and safety regulators can help identify the causes of the incidents and prevent similar incidents from occurring again. This has become even more important as we live through a pandemic crisis.
The Work Health and Safety law requires that:
- A 'notifiable incident' be reported to a regulator immediately after becoming aware it has happened
- Written notification is provided within 48 hours if the regulator asks
- The site of the incident is preserved until an inspector arrives, unless directed otherwise as there can be exceptions.
If an employer fails to report a notifiable incident, they are opening themselves to penalties.
What are notifiable incidents?
Generally an injury is considered serious if it requires immediate medical treatment by a trained professional or as an in-patient in a hospital.
What qualifies as a serious injury or illness can be tricky, especially as according to Safe Work Australia, only the most serious health or safety incidents are notifiable. For example, if someone injures their head at work and this results in a fractured skull, loss of consciousness, amnesia or internal bleeding, this is a serious head injury that needs to be reported. If, on the other hand, someone bumps their head, resulting in a minor bruise or headache, that is not considered a serious injury that needs to be reported.
Serious illness tends to refer to infections or complications where work is a significant contributing factor. This especially applies to businesses where employees deal with dangerous chemicals and substances.
A dangerous incident refers to a work-related situation that poses serious risks to health and safety, even if no one has been injured. Examples of dangerous incidents include the uncontrolled spill of a substance, an uncontrolled explosion, the unintended collapse of a structure and an unplanned fall of a substance or plant.
Notifiable incidents fall under three categories:
- Death of a person
- Serious injury or illness
- A dangerous incident
These circumstances must have resulted from the conduct of a business or undertaking at a workplace, and can apply to any person, whether an employee, contractor or member of the public.
How to report notifiable incidents
When a notifiable incident occurs, as mentioned above, it must be reported as soon as a business is aware of it, by the fastest means possible - by telephone, email or online (via an incident report form for example).
Generally, a business is considered 'aware' of an incident once anyone in a supervisory or managerial role becomes aware. This is why it's critical to have the proper procedures and communication systems in place, so staff know who needs to be notified if and when an incident occurs and how to notify them, and that there are designated people who know it is their responsibility to report incidents to regulators.
In addition to having the appropriate procedures and authorities in place, there are specific details that will need to be provided in your incident reports.
How to best manage notifiable incidents
To most effectively manage notifiable incidents, it is best to have a software system where all incidents, details and next steps can be recorded quickly and accurately. This will also allow management and members of your health and safety team to effectively define what situations are deemed incidents, to understand the trends in incidents that have occurred and implement new or improve existing risk controls to prevent them from reoccurring. Without a system that allows for a cohesive overview of your incident reporting, you are putting your people at unnecessary significant risk.
As we've discussed before, employers have an obligation to protect their employees. This not only ensures they won't face legal or financial consequences, but also improves productivity, creates efficiencies and tends to boost staff morale.
If you'd like assistance with managing your incident reporting, RiskWare's Incident Management Module can help you define, log/report and manage your incidents.
To learn more about how RiskWare is making the world a little less risky, visit us at RiskWare.com.au.