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Workplace fatalities

It is a legal requirement that all deaths arising out of the conduct of a business or undertaking are reported to SafeWork SA.

As a minimum, SafeWork SA undertakes a preliminary investigation of all reported fatalities within or related to a workplace to establish if they fall within the scope of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA).

SafeWork SA investigates the cause of each workplace fatality with preliminary investigations obtaining sufficient information to classify the death as:

  1. Notifiable fatality - a death arising from the conduct of the business or undertaking. For example:
    • a worker dies from a fall, or
    • tradesman is struck by a moving item of plant.
  2. Non-notifiable fatality - a death at a workplace that is not work-related or arising from the conduct of a business or undertaking. For example:
    • a death from natural causes while at work.
  3. Non-jurisdictional fatality - a death that does not occur at a workplace, or arise from the conduct of a business or undertaking. For example:
    • a road traffic death where the deceased was travelling between home and work, or
    • a death out of work-hours.

Some fatalities reported to SafeWork SA involve workers killed as a result of vehicle crashes. These matters are investigated to determine if the incident has arisen out of the conduct of the business or undertaking. This includes people killed as a consequence of another person's work. For example, where a worker falls asleep while driving and kills another road user the fatality would be investigated.

SafeWork SA investigates workplace incidents where people have been seriously or fatally injured to:

  • find out what happened
  • prevent further similar injuries and fatalities arising
  • determine if there have been breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA).

SafeWork SA inspectors interview everyone that may be able to help them understand what happened including eyewitnesses, other workers and the employer. Family members may also be asked to make a statement.

The duration of an investigation depends on the complexity of the matter. Determining the cause of an incident sometimes requires machinery or materials to be tested, while determining responsibility is subject to clarifying the relationships between employers, workers, contractors, sub-contractors and others.

If an investigation into a workplace fatality uncovers sufficient evidence to support a breach of the WHS Act, a prosecution may be commenced.

In all workplace fatalities investigated by SafeWork SA, a report is forwarded to the Coroner. However if a prosecution is initiated, this is not sent to the Coroner until the conclusion of all Court processes.

Family members (or their legal representative) of a person fatally injured at work can apply for a summary of facts of the investigation.

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