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How to Conduct a Workplace Incident Investigation in Australia

Workplace Incident Investigations

Every year, there are thousands of incidents recorded in Australian workplaces. While many of these are minor and not particularly concerning in isolation, when you consider how many workplaces there are across the country, the risk of fatal or serious incidents increases.

In any business, a workplace incident investigation is important because it allows a company to identify potential risks within their working environment and take steps to reduce the likelihood of similar incidents occurring again.

A workplace incident investigation is essentially a detailed analysis of what happened during an incident and why it occurred so that effective preventative measures can be taken going forward. It is also beneficial because it allows an organization to remain accountable while proving they have taken necessary steps to prevent future occurrences.

This article will explore further what you need to know about conducting a workplace incident investigation in Australia.

What is a Workplace Incident Investigation?

An incident report is a written account of an incident in the workplace. It normally includes a description of the incident, relevant dates and times, the location where the incident occurred and a summary of the actions taken by relevant workers to manage the situation and/or subsequent actions taken as a result of the incident. This can include actions by first responders (i.e. emergency services), those directly involved in the incident and those responsible for managing any potential risks and hazards in the workplace.

An incident report can also refer to an investigation report. This is a detailed account of an investigation into an incident. It normally includes the same details as an incident report, as well as a thorough analysis of the factors that contributed to the incident occurring. An incident report and/or investigation report can include details such as the type of incident, the date and time it occurred, the location it took place in, the people involved, and what led up to the incident occurring. It may also include information about the efforts made to manage the risk or hazards involved.

Why Conduct a Workplace Incident Investigation?

There are many reasons why an incident investigation is necessary in the workplace.

First, it allows you to learn from your mistakes. If an incident happens, it is important to analyze it to understand what happened and why so that it does not happen again.

Failing to investigate incidents and implementing actions to stop them from reoccurring may be a breach of a your organisation’s duty of care to employees and members of the public. If there is an incident, but you have taken all the appropriate steps to mitigate risks and hazards, you will have the documentation to prove it.

Workplace incident investigations can also be important if you have to discipline or terminate an employee due to their negligence. An incident investigation can be used to show that you took all appropriate steps to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.

How to Conduct a Workplace Incident Investigation?

Conducting a workplace incident investigation is a relatively straightforward process. The first step is to document the incident. This means obtaining details about what happened and the sequence of events that led to the incident occurring. You should also note who was involved and where the incident took place, as well as the potential risks and hazards present at the time. If the incident resulted in any injuries, you should also document the names of those who were hurt and the nature and extent of their injuries. It is also important to identify any witnesses who may have information that can help with your investigation.

Evidence should be gathered about the incident, this can include:

  • Photographs
  • Policies / Procedures
  • Detailed Witness Statements
  • Sketches / Diagrams
  • Equipment
  • Maintenance Records

Next, identify the root cause of the incident. This means you should look at each potential risk or hazard that may have contributed to the incident occurring and assess which ones are most likely to have played a part in the event. Finally, implement the necessary changes to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

What are Workplace Incident Investigations Procedures?

While workplace incident investigation procedures will vary from company to company, there are some best practices that many businesses follow. These include:

  • A written incident report should be created and completed as soon as possible after an incident occurs. Ideally, it should be created within 24 hours.
  • The person who completes the report should be objective and impartial.
  • The report should include the date, time, and location of the incident, a description of what happened, the names of those involved, and a description of the injuries sustained if any were reported.
  • The report should include a detailed account of what led up to the incident occurring and any factors that may have contributed to it occurring.
  • The report should also include the steps taken to manage the risk or hazard involved.
  • All relevant people should sign off on the report to confirm that it is accurate.
  • The report should be kept in a safe place and be easily accessible in the case of a legal dispute.

There are some standardised procedures for how to conduct an incident investigation including TapRoot or ICAM. For information of ICAM investigation, visit our ICAM Investigations page.


Overall, an incident investigation is a critical part of WHS management. It allows you to learn from past mistakes while providing evidence that you have taken the necessary steps to mitigate future risks. A workplace incident investigation report is written documentation of an incident that occurred in the workplace. This is a detailed analysis of an incident, including the sequence of events that led to the incident occurring, the factors that contributed to the incident, and the efforts made to manage the risk or hazard involved.

With an effective workplace incident investigation, you can identify potential risks within your working environment and take steps to reduce the likelihood of similar incidents occurring again.

For help conducting a workplace incident investigation, visit our contact us page.

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