Managing Incidents in the Workplace

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Australian workplace injuries cost employers a staggering 1.6 billion dollars a year. How can you put some simple steps in place to reduce the chances of injury, illness and property damage? Understand what your responsibilities are in accordance with safety legislation and WHS law. 

So, how do you define an incident?

An incident is an event or chain of events which has or could cause occupational injury, ill health, and/or damage (loss) to people, assets or reputation.

What are my obligations under safety legislation?

Under current legal regulations, employers must ensure that any workplace accidents are handled in a way that:

  • maximises understanding of the underlying causes and
  • minimises the likelihood of recurrence.

Employers must ensure:

  • All incidents are reported
  • All incidents are investigated
  • Implementation of risk control measures and corrective action plan
  • Control measures are monitored and adjusted as required
  • Records of the incident and outcomes kept.

So when recording an incident what should you record?

You should include as a minimum on the incident form:

  • The name and address (if possible) of the person/s involved
  • Time and location of the incident
  • Time the date the incident was reported
  • How the incident happened
  • Description of any object, activity, machine or chemicals involved
  • What the person was doing at the time
  • Nature and circumstances of the incident
  • Any witnesses to the incident
  • Any witness statements

Case Study

Before creating the Online WHS System, I owned the lease of a very successful aquatic and leisure centre in North-West Sydney.

It was here I started my journey developing safety systems, one of which trained and inducted staff in incident management.

As you can imagine, aquatic centres get busy over summer with over 2000 people on site per day.

One very hot, very busy summer day,

a child spills an ice-cream,

… a staff member begins hosing the slip hazard down in accordance with procedures we developed,

… a pram-pushing mother doesn’t see the safety signage,

… she trips on the hose and twists her ankle.

Two months later I received legal notification that the mother was seeking compensation for the damage she suffered as a result of this event.

When I read the claim, my eyes almost popped out of his head. The claim was seeking damages, not for the twisted ankle, but for:

  • the damage to her shoulder and arm incurred as a result of the hose causing her to trip and fall
  • the long term damage to her child that resulted from her fall, causing the baby to be tipped from the pram and hitting its head on the pavement.

The case went to court.

It wasn’t long into the case that the woman’s claim was dismissed.


The judge had been presented with documentation and records related to both the Aquatic Centre’s general safety practices and this specific incident.

My staff had followed procedure and the documentation of the incident included a signed statement from the injured women and signed statements from two witnesses corroborating the reports from my staff and the woman herself. These proved beyond doubt the woman’s claim was fictional.

The episode vindicated my earlier devotion to creating good systems, training my employees in those systems, and maintaining excellent records. Without this process in place, the results could have been catastrophic financially and for the centre’s reputation.

So you can see how important it is not only to report incidents thoroughly with as much detail as possible including any witness’s details.

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