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Notifiable Incidents in Australia: 4 Things You Need to Know

Notifiable IncidentWhat is a Notifiable Incident?

A notifiable incident is a workplace incident that meets the definition under the Work Health and Safety Act. There are three main categories of notifiable incidents, these are:

  • Death of a person,
  • Serious injury or illness of person, and
  • Potentially dangerous incident

The first category is self-explanatory. The second two require further explanation. The WHS Act provides definitions for all notifiable incidents including serious illness and injury as well as a potentially dangerous incident. A serious injury or illness is:

  • immediate treatment as an in-patient in a hospital,
  • immediate treatment for
    • the amputation of any part of his or her body,
    • a serious head injury,
    • a serious eye injury,
    • a serious burn,
    • the separation of his or her skin from an underlying tissue (for example, degloving or scalping),
    • a spinal injury,
    • the loss of a bodily function,
    • serious lacerations, or
  • medical treatment within 48 hours of exposure to a substance.

In contrast, dangerous incidents may involve no injury to personnel but nonetheless are indicative of a dangerous situation where someone could have been injured, the environment could have been damaged or there was the potential for significant damage to property. Dangerous incidents include:

  • an uncontrolled escape, spillage or leakage of a substance,
  • an uncontrolled implosion, explosion or fire,
  • an uncontrolled escape of gas or steam,
  • an uncontrolled escape of a pressurized substance,
  • electric shock
  • the fall or release from a height of any plant, substance or thing
  • the collapse, overturning, failure or malfunction of, or damage to, any plant that is required to be authorized for use under a regulation
  • the collapse or partial collapse of a structure
  • the collapse or failure of an excavation or of any shoring supporting an excavation
  • the inrush of water, mud or gas in workings, in an underground excavation or tunnel
  • the interruption of the main system of ventilation in an underground excavation or tunnel, or
  • any other event prescribed under a regulation.

What Should You Do After a Notifiable Incident?

The first steps following a notifiable incident involve rendering aid to injured parties and taking steps to prevent the incident from spreading or causing further damage. Once the workplace is safe, it should be fenced off pending notification to the relevant regulator (e.g. Worksafe for the state or territory you live in).

The regulator will tell you if your workers can return to work or if the incident scene needs to remain untouched pending an investigation by Worksafe. If the regulator determines that an investigation is required, a Worksafe Inspector will attend the site and collect evidence like:

  • Witness Statements
  • Photographs
  • Documents
  • Pieces of Equipment / Plant

Legally, the employer and employees must assist the inspector with conducting the investigation, if requested.

What to Include in a Notifiable Incident Report

The regulator will generally detail what information they require from you. After the initial phone call to report the incident, the regulator will direct you to an online portal to input the details of the incident. In general, the following information will be required for the report:

  • an overview of what happened, including date, time, and location
  • information about anyone who was injured, including their date of birth, contact details, and their relationship to you (worker, site visitor, volunteer, contractor, member of the public)
  • information about the injury, including treatment received and hospital details, if they were taken to the hospital
  • your details, including business information and contact details
  • immediate action taken to make the site safe
  • further safety action taken, or actions that will be taken, to prevent the incident from happening again.

What Happens Next?

Once the notifiable incident has been reported, the investigation has been completed and any improvement notices or prohibition notices have been closed out, work can usually restart. It is important that corrective actions be taken to prevent the incident, or similar incidents, from happening again.

If you need assistance with incident notification, investigation, or any other WHS issue don’t hesitate to contact us.

For further information on incident investigations, visit our article on How to Conduct a Workplace Incident Investigation.

Further information can be found on Safe Work Australia’s Notifiable Incident fact sheet.

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