Preservation of the incident site – your obligations
Hopefully you never have to deal with this situation but if an incident were to occur in your workplace, would you know what you need to do right there and then?
It’s important that you, your managers, supervisors and workers do. There are certain circumstances when you can disturb the site of an incident, and some when you can’t…
Under the WHS Act and in Victoria, incident sites must be preserved and left undisturbed until an inspector arrives.
However, there are some situations when the requirement not to disturb the site does not apply, these are when:
- it is necessary to assist an injured person;
- making the site safe to minimise the risk of a further notifiable incident occurring;
- taking any action associated with a police investigation;
- taking any action for which an inspector or regulator has given permission; or
- removing a deceased person.
If you are an employer with a workplace in Western Australia, it’s a different story because there is no specific duty to preserve the site of an incident there. However, inspectors may require the workplace (or part of a workplace) to be left undisturbed for a specified period.
What penalties can you face for disturbing an incident site?
Failure not to disturb the incident site until an inspector has arrived (excluding for the exceptions outlined above) could lead to penalties of:
- up to $50,000 for a business and $10,000 for an individual under the WHS Act;
- up to $42,300 for a business and $8,460 for an individual in Victoria; and
- up to $50,000 for a business and $25,000 for an individual in WA (if ordered to preserve the site by an inspector).
If you subscribe to the Health & Safety Handbook, there are two chapters that provide further information about these matters: Incident Reporting and Investigation explains how to deal with a workplace incident on the spot and how to handle the aftermath, and Notification of Incidents explains the process for notifying the safety regulator and your obligations as an employer in these difficult situations.
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