Incident Reporting and Investigation

key ohs laws

All incidents should be reported. This includes all injuries, work related illnesses, first aid treatments and, especially, near misses. These should all be reported regardless of how small or insignificant they may seem at the time. A small incident that occurs to a single person may seem insignificant until it is found that a similar incident has occurred many times in the past, indicating an underlying serious problem with a potential to cause a major incident at some time. The employer should have a system in place to record and store the reported information both in regard to reporting obligations under various legislation and funding agreements, and also with regard to ongoing analysis for management purposes.

Legal requirements for incident reporting

A summary of the key requirements for incident reporting from Victorian OHS laws is provided as follows:
  • Accident Compensation Act 1985 requires that employers keep a register of the injuries that occur in their workplace (in addition to the register required for children).
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 requires employers to:
    • keep information and records relating to the health and safety of the employees (Section 22)
    • monitor the conditions at workplace/s under their control (Section 22)
    • notify the WorkCover Authority (WorkSafe Division) about serious injuries/illnesses and dangerous occurrences (Sections 37 to 39).

Types of incident reports

There are four different types of report forms considered as follows:
  1. Near miss, incident and hazard report form – usually a general form found at most workplaces; sometimes it is separated into two or three different forms
  2. Register of injuries report form – often a book (in compliance with the Accident Compensation Act 1985), containing summary information about incidents that have occurred over a given period of time; this form can be combined with the Near miss, incident and hazard report form
  3. Accident compensation claim form – only applicable if an injured/ill employee is filing for compensation for the injuries or illnesses sustained in an incident; in these instances the employee believes the injuries/illnesses are a result of work related activities, so they are seeking compensation for medical costs and/or lost earnings
  4. Incident notification form – for use when WorkSafe Victoria needs to be notified of certain types of workplace incidents (serious injuries/ illnesses and dangerous occurrences). Verbal notification is required immediately. Written notification must be within 48 hours. This form is available from www.worksafe.vic.gov.au or by ringing their hotline on (03) 9641 1444 or toll free on 1800 136 089.
Note that the workers compensation claim form is available separately from post offices and from WorkSafe Victoria on (03) 9641 1444.

Notifiable incidents

Under Section 38 of the OHS Act 2004, an employer must notify WorkSafe Victoria immediately after the occurrence of certain types of notifiable incidents at the workplace. In addition, the Act (Section 39) requires that the site of any notifiable incident must be preserved and not disturbed until a WorkSafe Victoria inspector has arrived at the scene or has directed otherwise. Please note that reference to a 'person' regarding incidents that are notifiable to WorkSafe Victoria means any person, and as such could include:
  • an employee
  • an employer
  • a child a family member, including other children
  • a visitor
  • a contractor or their personnel, including agency or labour hire personnel.
The types of notifiable incidents involving injury for which WorkSafe Victoria must immediately be notified are as follows:
  1. The death of a person.
  2. A person requiring medical treatment within 48 hours of exposure to a substance.
  3. A person requiring immediate treatment as an inpatient in a hospital.
  4. A person requiring immediate medical treatment for:
    • the amputation of any part of the person's body
    • a serious head injury
    • a serious eye injury
    • the separation of the skin from the underlying tissue, such as de-gloving or scalping
    • electric shock
    • a spinal injury
    • the loss of a bodily function serious lacerations.
In addition to the above, the employer must immediately notify the WorkSafe Victoria if an incident at a workplace has exposed a person to an immediate risk to their health and safety through:
  1. The collapse, overturning, failure or malfunction of, or damage to, any plant that the regulations prescribe must not be used unless the plant is licensed or registered.
  2. The collapse or failure of an excavation; or any shoring supporting an excavation.
  3. The collapse or partial collapse of any part of a building or structure.
  4. An implosion, explosion or fire.
  5. The escape, spillage or leakage of any substance, including dangerous goods.
  6. The fall or release from a height of any plant, substance or object.
Note: It is allowable to disturb the site of the incident for the purpose of protecting the health and safety of a person, assisting an injured person or taking essential action to make the site safe to prevent any further occurrences of an incident.

When notification is necessary

The telephone number for notification to WorkSafe Victoria is 132 360. Within 48 hours after being required to notify WorkSafe Victoria of a notifiable incident, the employer or self employed person must also give WorkSafe Victoria a written record of the incident. This must be done on an official form that is available from WorkSafe Victoria, which can be downloaded from www.worksafe.vic.gov.au or requested in hard copy from WorkSafe Victoria by ringing their hotline on (03) 9641 1444 or toll free on 1800 136 089. The employer or self employed person must keep a copy of this record for at least five years. Where a death occurs in the workplace, police must be notified immediately. When notice of an incident is given to WorkSafeVictoria, they will decide whether or not to investigate. If WorkSafe Victoria decides to investigate, they will send out an inspector to perform the investigation.

Monitoring OHS incidents

Monitoring OHS incidents includes monitoring the level of incident reporting, investigation and follow-up of corrective action. This is an important part of measuring and evaluating OHS performance. This in turn is an important part of a systematic approach to managing OHS, as discussed previously. It is recommended that the employer should review incidents at least once per year, to determine if there are some patterns or trends which will assist in isolating weaknesses in risk control measures or precautions. These can then be used as a basis for OHS initiatives included in employer OHS improvement plans.
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