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How to respond to a notifiable incident in your workplace

All businesses need to be aware of their obligations to inform the safety regulator of a notifiable incident. A failure to do so can result in, not only a penalty of up to $50,000, but also the clock on limitation periods for the commencement of a prosecution does not start until the incident is notified.

What is a notifiable incident?

A notifiable incident is one involving a serious injury, illness or death of a worker, or a dangerous incident (also called a near miss).

A person has suffered a serious injury or illness if they require:

  • immediate treatment as an inpatient in a hospital;
  • medical treatment within 48 hours of exposure to a substance; or
  • immediate treatment for:
  • the amputation of any body part;
  • a serious head, eye or burn injury;
  • the separation of skin from an underlying tissue (such as degloving or scalping);
  • a spinal injury; or
  • a serious laceration.

A dangerous incident includes:

  • uncontrolled spillage or leakage of a hazardous substance;
  • an implosion, explosion or fire;
  • an electric shock;
  • any plant, substance or thing falling from a height;
  • the collapse, overturning, failure or malfunction of any plant that must be authorised for use;
  • the collapse or partial collapse of a structure or excavation;
  • the inrush of water, mud or gas in an underground tunnel or excavation; or
  • the interruption of the main system of ventilation in an underground tunnel or excavation.

5 key steps to take when a notifiable incident occurs

Once an incident occurs at your workplace, you need to:

  1. Attend to any injured workers.
  2. Secure the worksite.
  3. Report the incident to your health and safety regulator. You must notify the safety regulator immediately by telephone and, if requested, also in writing within 48 hours of the incident. If you are not sure whether the incident is a ‘notifiable incident’, get immediate advice.
  4. After taking care of any injured worker’s needs and securing the worksite, you may need to provide appropriate care and possibly counselling for other workers who might have been affected by the incident.
  5. Be careful – while it is an offence to disturb the scene of the incident, it may be necessary to modify the worksite to avoid further risks of injury, including to the injured worker. For example, if the worker is trapped under a structure and it looks possible that the structure will collapse. Moving the structure could also cause further harm to the injured person, so be sure to have appropriately competent persons on site to make these assessments.

For in-depth advice about managing notifiable incidents, refer to the Health & Safety Handbook chapter Notification of Incidents.

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