When Do I Need to Inform the Regulator?

Phone CallUnder the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) any person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) is required to notify the regulator when certain incidents occur.

Part 3 of the WHS Act requires the regulator to be notified of serious workplace incidents and for the site of these incidents to be preserved until an inspector arrives or directs otherwise (subject to some exceptions). 

In particular the WHS Act requires immediate notification of an incident to the regulator after becoming aware of it and preservation of the incident site until an inspector arrives or directs otherwise. Failing to notify the regulator is a criminal offence and stiff penalties apply.

So what is a ‘notifiable’ incident? Under the WHS Act the definition includes the death of a person; or a serious injury or illness; or a dangerous incident arising out of work carried out by a business or undertaking or a workplace.

Thankfully workplace deaths are low in number and when one does happen there is little debate over whether or not to report. But many people can be unsure of when to call an incident serious or even what defines a dangerous incident.

A serious injury or illness under the Act is one requiring immediate treatment or admission as an in-patient at a hospital. Examples could be serious head injuries, or an amputation requiring admission to a hospital. Where someone is not admitted to hospital and is discharged the same day the injury is not classed as notifiable.

Even if immediate treatment is not readily available, for example because the incident site is rural or remote or because the relevant specialist treatment is not available, the notification must still be made.

The last definition is a dangerous incident and this also covers “near misses”. Notification is required of any incident in relation to a workplace that exposes a worker or any other person to a serious risk to a person’s health or safety. 

This can be incidents emanating from exposure to such things as an uncontrolled spillage or leakage of a substance or an explosion or fire or major electric shock. A partial collapse of a tunnel or structure or interruption of ventilation in an underground tunnel; are all cases where the incident must be notified to the regulator.

Any of these occurrences are reportable as a ‘dangerous incident’ (or ‘near miss’) if a person is exposed to a serious risk from immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard.

Sometimes incidents occur at a workplace (or in the vicinity of a workplace) that do not arise out of work, or the way work is carried out or the workplace itself. These kinds of incidents that are unrelated to work or a workplace are not notifiable.

Work-related incidents may occur outside the workplace and these may still be notifiable if they involve a death, serious illness or injury or a dangerous incident. For example if an object like a hand tool is kicked off a multi-storey building under construction hitting a person below.

A regulator must be notified of a ‘notifiable incident’ immediately after the PCBU becomes aware of the incident arising from the business or undertaking. The notice must be given by the fastest possible means which could be by telephone
or in writing, for example by facsimile, email or other electronic means.

If notifications are made by telephone follow-up information may be requested either by telephone or in writing. If you are asked to follow-up in writing you must provide the required information in writing within 48 hours of the request being made.

For a full list of regulators in your state or territory CLICK HERE.


About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

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