Workers at all levels of responsibility in the workplace are required to report accidents, incidents and injury in an appropriate manner to designated personnel. The staff handbook/procedures manual at your workplace and your staff induction training should provide further details of procedures that relate specifically to your individual workplace.
Serious incidents and accidents must be reported by law. The Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 requires that employers keep a record of all work-related injuries, illnesses, and dangerous occurrences.
Lesser incidents, however minor, must be reported verbally or in writing within the organisation (for example to your supervisor or WHS representative) as they could indicate that there is a hazardous situation that has not yet been recognised. A series of similar minor incidents could act as a kind of ‘early warning’ system.
Read the case example below and answer the questions that follow. Enter your response into the text box provided.
The metal filing cabinet began to tip when Terry opened the full top drawer. He noticed a sharp edge just below where he used his hand to steady it. A close call, but he was not hurt and he did not report the incident.
Soraya later cut her hand steadying the same filing cabinet. She wrapped a tissue around the cut and continued working. She did not report it, so there was no record of the injury. She was then off work for two weeks when her cut developed into serious infection.
A few days later, volunteer Tim required medical treatment for serious injuries after the filing cabinet fell on him.
Other staff members then came forward to describe a series of minor incidents that had occurred over the past year. All involved broken or worn equipment and none had been reported.
How should this case have been managed, in relation to:
- Maintaining a healthy and safe workplace?
Answer: If Terry had immediately reorganised the cabinet, the risk of it tipping would have been reduced. Reporting the damaged edge would ensure it was fixed and more severe consequences were avoided.
- Worker's compensation and insurance:
Answer: Soraya should have reported her injury. It is vital that even minor injury is recorded because any injury might be more serious than first thought; in the future this information might be crucial in legal proceedings.
- Reporting and recording workplace incidents?
Answer: Had staff reported all minor incidents, a pattern of poor maintenance may have been identified earlier. Workplace records of minor incidents can point to serious issues which may only become apparent if all related incidents are known.
Follow workplace procedures to report an incident