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Accidents and Injuries in the Workplace

Workplace accidents can have a negative impact on a business in many ways. If serious enough, they can result in a loss of productivity, reduced staff morale, increased absenteeism, and even temporary or permanent closure.

According to research from Safe Work Australia, 106,260 people lodged a serious claim in 2016-17, costing small businesses a median of $11,500 per claim. These incidents also represented a median of 5.6 weeks in lost productivity per claim.

For this reason, it’s important that staff and employers work together to take reasonable steps to reduce work-related injuries, and to maintain a consistent record of each injury as they occur in the form of an accident record.

Reporting an Accident at Work

You may not be able to prevent accidents from happening at work but, if they do happen, you must handle them lawfully and wisely.

To do that, you must keep a record of every workplace accident (often called a ‘Register of Injuries’). This must be available at all times, and each report should contain the following information:

  • Name of worker/s
  • Worker’s occupation or job title
  • Time and date of injury
  • Exact location of the worker at the time of injury
  • Exact description of how the injury was sustained
  • If any treatment was provided to the injured, and if so, what kind of treatment
  • Nature of injury and the body part/s affected
  • Names of people who witnessed the incident take place
  • Date of entry in the register
  • Name of person making the entry

Anyone injured at work, including direct worker, agency employee, contractor, customer or visitor, must be on the register of injuries. Always store personal data carefully in line with privacy law.

You must also review the incident to find out whether there are steps you could take to stop it from happening again. A serious injury, or risk to plant and equipment, will need a more in-depth investigation.

What constitutes a Work Health and Safety Incident or Accident?

A workplace incident is any event that exposes a worker or any other person to a serious risk to that person’s health or safety.

Different types of injuries and illnesses can be sustained from a workplace incident. According to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) a serious injury or illness of a person isn’t illness or injury that requires:

  • immediate medical treatment in a hospital
  • Immediate treatment for:
  • The amputation of a persons’ body part
  • Serious head injury
  • Serious eye injury
  • Major burn
  • Separation of skin from underlying tissue
  • Spinal injury
  • Loss of certain bodily functions
  • Serious lacerations
  • Any infections transmitted to a person as a result of them carrying out work-related activities
  • Medical treatment within 48 hours of exposure to a substance

Investigating a Workplace Incident

Not all workplace incidents are serious enough to warrant an investigation. Once an incident report has been sent to the relevant work health and safety regulator, they will assess the following factors to determine if they should carry out an incident investigation:

  • Severity, or potential severity of the incident
  • Number of people involved in the incident
  • Level of risk
  • Complexity of the situation and amount of factors involved

If the incident is serious enough, the local supervisor or manager – in cooperation with an expert from the relevant work health and safety regulator – must carry out a formal incident investigation procedure to:

  • Determine all contributing factors to the incident – whether it was an accident, near-miss, or a hazard.
  • Record all relevant details about the incident to support an insurance claim, workers’ compensation claim, or common law proceeding.
  • Comply with the applicable legislative requirements
  • Implement changes to eliminate or reduce the risk of the same incident happening again.

During the investigation you must collect relevant information from anyone who was involved in the incident. While you may receive some of this information in the Register of Injuries, you will need to conduct face-to-face interviews so you can piece together the sequence of events that led to the incident.

After you collect this information, you must uncover the cause of the incident and come up with reasonable recommendations to address the contributing factors of the incident to eliminate or reduce the risk of further injury.

Don’t Wait for Accidents to Happen. Assess the Risk Now

Here’s how to identify hazards and assess the risk.

How to Identify Workplace Hazards

In order to figure out the cause of an incident, and to make appropriate changes to eliminate or reduce the chance of the same incident happening again, you need to perform a risk assessment at the incident site.

While the nature of a workplace risk can vary from place-to-place, the most common types of hazards at work include:

  • Physical hazards: Slips, trips and falls, vibration and noise.
  • Ergonomic hazards: Certain body movements that result in harm to the musculoskeletal system. This may include repetitive movement, manual handling and poor posture.
  • Biological hazards: Exposure to dangerous and infectious organic substances like bacteria and viruses.
  • Chemical hazards: Exposure to hazardous substances found in the workplace. Common types of hazardous chemicals include neurotoxins, immune agents, asthmagens, and carcinogens.

By assessing the risk site, and using the information you collected from all parties involved, you will be able to identify the hazards and evaluate the risks, and then implement the right control measures to prevent the risk of serious injury and illness.

Employsure can help you keep accurate accident records that protect your business. For peace of mind, please contact 1300 207 182 to learn more.

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