Should a serious or dangerous workplace incident or injury occur, the PCBU is responsible for investigating the circumstances that led to the incident/injury. The aim of the investigation is not to apportion blame but to put in place control measures to avoid further incidents. By collecting incident information and analysing it within a risk management process to identify and control risks, everyone can learn from it and improve safety practice.
Reporting and investigating an incident
Recording and gathering information
Record physical evidence first. This evidence may be subject to rapid change or obliteration and should therefore be the first information recorded.
Collect and photograph information such as:
- location of the injured worker(s) at the time of the incident
- equipment in use at the time
- substances in use at the time
- safety devices or controls used at the time
- position of appropriate guards
- position of controls for any machinery involved
- damage to equipment
- state of housekeeping in the area
- environmental conditions (such as weather, lighting, noise levels, temperature).
Take notes of the scene. Photographs, sketches and diagrams may also be useful. Careful study of these later may reveal conditions or contributing factors initially missed.
Take notes about:
The events leading up to the incident
- systems of work being used
- instructions given, any variations from instructions
- workplace conditions, such as housekeeping, floor surfaces, stair treads, handrails
- the exact location of the incident
- any materials being used or handled
- the type of transport or equipment being used
- any information at all which may provide clues about contributory factors.
The incident itself
- the state of the system and the actions that occurred at the moment of the incident
- the person(s) directly involved and those involved at a distance
- the tools, equipment, materials and fixtures directly involved.
What happened after the incident
- the injuries or damage which directly resulted
- the events leading to consequential injury or damage
- the persons involved, including those who rendered first aid
- any problems dealing with injuries or damage.
Gather the procedures and safety requirements for the area and tasks being performed.
Compile a maintenance history of any plant or equipment involved.
Review all potentially useful information about the workplace, equipment and procedures, including designs, specifications, drawings, and information from manufacturers and suppliers.
You can contact us on 1300 365 255 if you have any questions about investigating a work-related incident.
Conduct interviews as soon as possible after the incident.
Personally interview everyone involved, including the injured worker(s) if possible, witnesses, nearby workers and anyone in the area at the time.
Interview each person separately. Put them at ease and approach the interview in a non-threatening and non-judgemental manner. Explain that the purpose of the investigation is to prevent a recurrence and identify underlying causes.
Ask each person to describe what they saw and heard leading up to and at the time of the incident. Let the person talk without interrupting them. Ask open-ended and probing questions to fill in the details, such as “Could you expand on this process?” or “Can you tell me about the operation of the equipment?”.
Confirm that your understanding of the person’s account is accurate. End the interview on a positive note, thanking them for the information provided. Ask them to let you know if they recall anything further that may assist.
Reporting investigation outcomes
Once you have collected all of the information you will need to write a report that includes the details of the incident, the evidence you have collected, the identified risks and hazards and any practical outcomes/control measures that you can act on to prevent a recurrence of the incident.
Your report should also include:
Details of the PCBU and workplace
- PCBU name
- Industry of PCBU
- PCBU location
- Work Health and Safety Committee
- Number of workers
- Number of hours worked
Details of the injured person
- Personal characteristics
- Name of injured worker/s
- Date of birth
- Preferred language
Basis of employment and job characteristics of the injured person
- Full-time, part-time, permanency of employment, shift arrangements
- Work experience
- Experience in the task being undertaken at the time of the incident
- Training history
- Proportion of shift worked at the time of the incident
- Date of incident or report of disease
- Time of incident
- Location of incident
- Description of incident
- Cause of incident
Details of the injury or disease
- Bodily location of injury or disease
- Nature of injury or disease
- Fatality, injury, permanency
- Rehabilitation status
- Resumption of work
- Time lost from work
Lessons learned and control measures
- Preventative action proposed and taken
- Changes to work practices/procedures.