Under health and safety legislation in all jurisdictions in Australia, you are required to investigate a notifiable incident as soon as possible. Hence, the need for accurate record-keeping of the incident is a must as the information you have gathered will almost always be referred to later.

Serious incidents should always be investigated internally. However, in certain circumstances, it may also be necessary for an external third party to investigate the incident.

An investigation is necessary to identify the underlying cause of an incident and to take steps to eliminate or minimise any identified risk of injury or illness. Not only will this help to prevent a similar incident from occurring, it will also enable you to comply with your duty of care.

You should adopt a process for reporting and investigating safety incidents in your workplace. Your investigation process should be designed to ensure that any investigations and reports produced by your business are protected by legal professional privilege.

Incident report forms can be developed internally by your business. Sometimes, it is best to have these available, at least initially, in paper-based form so they can be filled out quickly on the spot, rather than having to wait to input the report into the business’s computer system.

However, it’s a good idea to have any paper-based incident reports captured digitally as well.

Incident report forms should be made readily available to your workers. Usually a manager or supervisor will need to complete an incident report form, but it is a good idea to have a section on the form to be completed by the worker who first came forward about the incident.

It is vital to any investigation that descriptions of incidents are limited to the known facts and do not speculate or reach any conclusion about the cause of the incident.

For example, an incident report form should not state, “The forklift hit the worker because the driver was drunk.” Until an investigation has been undertaken it is unlikely there will be conclusive evidence of the cause of the incident.

In many cases, the safety regulator will expect to receive a copy of an incident report form – this is another reason why it’s important that the report only records known facts and not speculation.

An incident report form should include an overview of what happened and the type of notifiable incident it is, such as a death, serious injury or illness, or a dangerous incident.

Date, time and location, as well as a detailed description of the incident, including the circumstances in which it occurred and who was injured, should be included on the form.

Include the names of any relevant witnesses who may be called on later in any incident investigation.

Make sure you list any injuries and illnesses and their degrees of seriousness, as well as any treatment the injured party receives.

Then include all the business’s contact details.

Whatever you include on the incident report form should be in a format that can be easily presented to the regulator. Remember, you must report all significant safety incidents to the regulator in your jurisdiction.

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