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Managing Work Health and Safety Incidents

A key function in a Work, Health and Safety management system is dealing with accidents, workplace injuries and related health issues, as well as all other events and problems that pose an immediate or potential risk to al people in the work premises.

Apart from immediate application of Emergency Procedures where required, an Incident Reporting system is required to report and process all these situations, and goes far beyond just recording circumstances and reporting the events.

Incident / Accident Investigation and Reporting

All incidents / accidents must be investigated as soon as practicable. Failure to do so could prevent you from identifying all the causes that lead to the incident / accident. As well as investigating you are also required to notify WorkCover of specific incident / accident types. 

Types of incidents / accidents that require reporting:

  • The death of a person,
  • A serious injury or illness,
  • A dangerous incident arising out of work carried out by a business undertaking or a workplace,
  • damage to any plant, equipment, building or structure or other thing that impedes safe operation,
  • an uncontrolled explosion or fire,
  • an uncontrolled escape of gas, dangerous goods or steam,
  • a spill or incident resulting in exposure or potential exposure of a person to a notifiable or prohibited carcinogenic substance.  “Person” can include employees and nonemployees.
  • exposure to bodily fluids that presents a risk of transmission of blood-borne diseases,  (needle stick)
  • any incidence of violence at a place of work that results in an employee being unfit to attend the employee’s usual place of work or to perform his or her usual duties at that place of work, or any occurrence that involves a risk of:
  • explosion or fire, or
  • escape of gas, dangerous goods or steam, or
  • serious injury to, or illness of, a person, or
  • substantial property damage.

Following the resolution of the any emergency action and people support, the business should commence an Incident investigation process.

Incident /Accident Investigation Process

Incident / accident investigation is a systematic approach that seeks to identify the cause of the incident or accident and to recommend remedial action to prevent the likelihood of a similar occurrence.

The focus of the investigation is on obtaining accurate information, including eyewitness accounts wherever possible. The purpose is not to find someone to blame for the accident but to prevent further injuries or damage. 

Objectives of Incident / Accident Investigation 

Once the employer has been notified they should investigate the incident / accident with these objectives in mind: 

  • to uncover and improve weaknesses in safety systems;
  • to take remedial action to prevent recurrence;
  • to demonstrate commitment.

In this investigation process, all appropriate problem management tools (eg. Root Cause Analysis) should be utilised to achieve the most effective outcomes.


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