With National Safe Work Month running throughout October, it’s a good time to revisit best practice when it comes to responding to safety incidents in the workplace. 

According to preliminary data from Safe Work Australia, 163 people died doing their job in Australia last year. Additionally, about 120,300 people made a workers’ compensation claim for serious injury or illness from 2019 to 2020.  

National Safe Work Month reminds us of the importance of protecting workers, their families and businesses from work-related illness and injury.  

No job should be unsafe or dangerous, but what do we do when a safety incident occurs?  

There are procedures that must be completed after a significant dangerous incident, even if no one is hurt.  

The health and safety of employees, customers, visitors and contractors must be the primary concern during and immediately after an incident. While reporting and investigating an incident are important, they are secondary to the initial emergency response. 

Here are five steps for responding to a workplace incident.

1.  Respond immediately  

If someone has been injured, the first step is to make sure they are safe. Call 000 or perform first aid if necessary. 

There are also obligations in relation to serious safety incidents where no-one is injured. Such incidents might include: 

  • floods, 
  • explosions and 
  • collapses of building structures. 

Whether someone has been injured or not, your immediate action must be to make sure employees are safe. 

2. Do not disturb the site 

Secure the incident site and evacuate others to ensure their safety. It is important to preserve the site to make sure an effective, accurate investigation can be conducted. This is particularly important if the incident needs to be reported to the appropriate state regulator. In such cases, the site must not be disturbed until the regulator gives you permission. 

Preserving the site does not prevent you from helping an injured person or ensuring the safety of other employees. Some ways of keeping an area safe include cutting power, isolating the area where the incident occurred, dealing with immediate hazards and moving employees. Appropriate action depends on the situation. 

3. Report 

Record, in writing, details of the incident and report the incident to internal management. Some states have specific record-keeping obligations that may need to be followed.  

Notifiable or reportable incidents must be reported as soon as possible.  

4. Investigate 

An inspector from the regulator may investigate the site if the incident requires external reporting. An internal investigation should begin as soon as possible after the inspector’s investigation is complete.  

You may wish to obtain legal advice and consider bringing in outside assistance to support an investigation and corrective action.  

5. Notify your insurer  

Notify your insurer about the incident as soon as possible. Provide the injured employee/s with Workplace Injury and Rehabilitation Compensation (WIRC) information on employee rights and responsibilities. 

To learn more about handling safety incidents responsibly, please join us at an Ai Group webinar next Thursday, October 20.

Educating employees and setting up clear internal policies and procedures on health and safety can ensure that the response to a safety incident is as smooth as possible.  

For support in creating or tailoring your resources to best fit your workplace and obligations, please contact Ai Group Workplace Lawyers via email or on 1300 55 66 77. This number can also connect you to our Safety Incident Legal Support Service, which offers Ai Group members immediate advice and guidance from our safety lawyers on what you need to do when a safety incident occurs within your workplace. 

This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

Ai Group offers a full range of WHS/OHS consulting services and support which is tailored to your specific needs. Please contact us if we can help.

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