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Hazard, Incident and Accident Reporting - Why is it important?

In most instances, accidents, injuries and near misses that occur in the workplace are preventable. However, even where stringent safety measures are in place, there is the potential for an accident injury or near miss to occur. 

Workplace accidents and injuries can have a significant and detrimental impact on individual workers, their colleagues and on the business as a whole. However they can also provide businesses with an opportunity  to learn, review and amend existing work practices and/or implement new practices to minimise the likelihood of a reoccurrence.

All employers have a legal obligation and duty of care to provide and maintain a safe and healthy workplace, and to ensure that safe systems of work are in place.  A core component of a workplace health and safety management system is the maintenance of a register of workplace accidents, injuries, incidents and hazards (including near misses) and for appropriate investigation to be conducted so as to prevent reoccurrence. 

What is an accident and incident register?

An accident and incident register should record full details of the incident

Including:

  •  The date of the incident,
  •  The time the incident occurred,
  •  The location/where the incident occurred
  •  A description of how the incident occurred.
  •  Details of any injuries incurred (where applicable) and treatment rendered
  •  People directly involved, including witnesses

In order to ensure that a workplace accidents and incident register is effectively maintained, it is essential that employees understand the requirement to, and feel safe, in notifying their employer when an incident occurs.

What injuries should be reported?

All injuries that occur in the workplace, even those that appear to be minor, should be reported by an employee to their employer.  Doing so can help play a key role in ensuring that safety issues are identified and promptly addressed to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence and to promote a safe workplace.

An incident does not have to be a large or significant event. Rather, an incident may be a minor event but could be indicative of a larger problem that could lead to incidents in the future.

Why may accidents and incidents not be reported?

There are many barriers that may prevent employee’s from actively reporting a workplace incident and/or accident. These may include:

  • Being embarrassed to report that an incident occurred
  • Fear of being viewed by the employer and/or colleagues as a complainer or ‘dobber’
  • Concern over job security
  • Holding a perception that reporting the incident would be a waste of time

It is important that all persons in the workplace understand what actions they need to take if they are injured or involved in an incident at work, and why this is important.

The reporting of incidents should be promoted as being a learning opportunity rather than a negative process. 

Impacts of failing to report accidents and injuries

The failure to report a workplace incident or injury can have a number of ramifications for both an employer and an employee, such as:

  • Unawareness of safety issues that are occurring in the work environment
  • An increased risk for other employees due to safety risks not being promptly identified and addressed
  • Delayed treatment for injuries, which can result in what may have otherwise been a minor injury becoming a serious condition.
  • Impacting an employee’s eligibility to claim workers compensation
  • Risk of non-compliance should the employer fail to notify the relevant authority of a notifiable incident.

What are Notifiable Incidents?

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must notify their WHS regulator when prescribed serious injuries, illnesses and dangerous incidents happen at work. These are referred to as ‘notifiable incidents’ and can include injuries that result in:

  • Death of a person
  • Medical treatment within 48 hours of being exposed to a substance (such as chemicals or biological materials)
  • Immediate hospital treatment as an in-patient
  • A person needing immediate medical treatment for:
    • Amputation
    • A serious head injury
    • A serious eye injury
    • Separation of skin from underlying tissue, such as de-gloving or scalping
    • Electric shock
    • Spinal injury
    • Loss of a bodily function
    • Serious laceration

What steps should an employer take?

As an employer, it is essential that:

  • You are aware of and understand what your legal obligations are regarding your duty of care and reporting requirements.
  • Have a robust accident and incident reporting procedure in place, including a process for reporting notifiable incidents to the applicable state or territory regulator
  • Appropriate first aid equipment and facilities are available
  • Training is provided to all persons in the workplace, including the provision of information about hazards in the workplace.
  • All workers know and understand what they are required to do if they are injured or involved in an incident in the workplace.
  • All reported injuries and incidents are treated seriously, irrespective of the severity.

It is important for employers to remember that accident and incident reporting is the first step of a larger process. Once an incident is reported, appropriate investigation does need to be undertaken so as to ensure that the root cause is identified, and appropriate control measures are implemented to reduce the level of workplace risk and to minimise the likelihood of recurrence.

Safety Advice Online provides a full suite of checklists, guides, policies, and procedures to assist your business in managing risk and improving safety in the workplace.

If you require advice or assistance with any safety matter, please contact the team at Safety Advice Online at [email protected] or on 1300 720 004.

Information in HR Advice Online guides and blog posts is meant purely for educational discussion of human resources issues. It contains only general information about human resources matters and due to factors, such as government legislation changes, may not be up to date at the time of reading. It is not legal advice and should not be treated as such.

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