From industrial relations experts, TTIA

Incident response and reporting – including notifiable incidents

The forest products industry comprises a multitude of sectors many of which have inherent dangers with complex machinery and environmental factors.  How a business in our industry responds to a health/safety incident can be the difference between life and death.  That response can also be the difference between a quick issue resolution, and a WHS prosecution. In addition, most businesses are now aware of the enormous financial penalties and/or potential criminal proceedings State Governments are enforcing in cases of negligence and injury.  This makes your incident recording all the more critical. 

Here is a list of important steps to implement as a business in case of an incident and/or accident.  Please follow them as you often may not get a second chance.

Communicate reporting requirements to workers

It is important to establish at induction, the reporting and action requirement if an injury occurs.  This must be specific to your workplace.

Establish a reporting culture

It is vital to place significant emphasis on the requirement of your workers to report all near misses, incidents, and other safety events. Reporting, no matter how trivial it may seem, is ultimately a safer option.

Responding to an incident

The following processes need to be implemented when an incident or accident occurs

  • provide first aid and medical treatment
  • immediately report the incident or accident to the senior person responsible for injury management
  • notifiable incidents should be reported to SafeWork immediately – see the  safety regulator’s website in each state
  • Report any workers’ compensation injuries within 48 hours of becoming aware of a worker’s injury.
  • complete the Register of Injuries form

Notifiable incidents – must be reported to the Regulator

It is a requirement that some incidents need to be reported to the State regulatory authority immediately.

Legislation is specific on what types of incidents must be notified to the state regulatory authority, (e.g. SafeWork NSW).  These incidents are not always clear.  For example, what is a serious injury?  Contact TTIA if in any doubt.

It is generally good policy to err on the side of reporting.  It is better for the regulatory authority to tell you ‘that’s okay, don’t worry’, than to have them potentially fine your business for not reporting.

Reportable incidents include

  • Death.
  • Emergency hospital treatment.
  • Exposure to a dangerous substance/experience such as electric shock or gas leak.

This list is not exhaustive, and it is best to consult the latest version of the legislation in your State or Territory.  Contact TTIA if you believe a serious incident has occurred and we can support you in assessing the best course of action.

Remember: Call 000 first.  Worry about reporting the incident after the emergency has been managed.

If a reportable incident occurs, you are not allowed to move or disturb the scene.  This may mean shutting down your site until the regulatory authority gives you the all-clear.  The site of a serious work injury or death is to be treated like a crime scene.  It is very serious, and you must follow this requirement.

Again, in the event of a serious incident, contact TTIA.  We are here to support you in developing a strategy to manage workplace incidents.

Investigate all incidents

For minor incidents, the investigation may be as simple as asking ‘what happened’ and taking immediate action. For major incidents, the investigation may be extensive, and you may need to seek TTIA’s support.

As part of the investigation process you might

  • assess the scene for any hazards
  • take statements from witnesses
  • review any paperwork (e.g. accident report forms or work method statements)
  • identify all of the causes to establish events leading up to the accident
  • prepare a written report
  • provide recommendations for corrective action

Review incident statistics

It is best practice to review incidents on a regular basis.  A ‘once off’ incident becomes a serious problem if it starts happening every day.  It is best to review incidents in a formal manner – at a regular management meeting.  Put incident statistics as a standing agenda item at your management meetings.

A note about incident records

Finally, take care when completing forms and giving statements. Well-meaning, seemingly innocent comments can end up in court as evidence.

It is my view that our industry has made significant improvements over the years in making safety a threshold issue.  The challenge is to continually review and improve these systems.

From industrial relations experts, TTIA

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