Reporting incidents and unsafe workplaces

June 7, 2021

in

Workplace injuries

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Peta Miller

If you work in Queensland, there are laws and regulations in place that require a safe environment for all workers. These laws ensure you, your colleagues, bosses, and all workers get the same standards of protection.

Employers have a duty of care to follow these laws and be proactive in removing hazards and reducing risks to avoid workplace injuries. But many workplaces, particularly those that involve manual labour, like the construction and manufacturing industries, don’t always spot the hazards (and are known to take shortcuts).

Some of the most common hazards that workers report include:

  • Insufficient safety training, or safety equipment
  • Frequent or heavy lifting
  • Defective equipment, unsanitary conditions
  • Exposure to risky substances, fumes, gases or dust
  • Workmates placing themselves or others at risk

Does this sound familiar? Read on to understand your rights, and what you should do if there's an accident that happens at your workplace. Don't forget to take our quiz at the end!

Who is responsible for workplace safety?

An important responsibility that business owners have is to ensure they have current workers’ compensation insurance. This is so if an employee gets injured at work, they can access rehab services, medical treatment, and wages to help pay their bills, until they’re on their feet again. To prevent an injury from occurring, all Queensland employers must also undertake regular risk management. A popular way to do this is by following a four-step process:

  1. Identifying hazards
  2. Assessing risks
  3. Controlling risks
  4. Reviewing control measures

We understand that accidents can happen, no matter how much preparation and safeguarding you do. So, if an injury or emergency arises, business owners must also make sure they have appropriate procedures in place whereby:

  • Incidents are recorded in an incident log
  • They have appropriate first aid equipment and facilities
  • Employees know what to do in an emergency
  • Notifiable incidents are reported

Remember though, staying safe is everyone’s responsibility. As workers you also have an obligation to yourself and to others by following the rules, using PPE, not misusing safety equipment or intentionally putting yourself or others at risk - both in the office and your work from home station.

When do you need to report a workplace incident?

If your work environment feels unsafe, whether for yourself or colleagues, you have a duty to report it. You also have the right to refuse to work or stop working if you feel there's a serious risk to health and safety.

If someone is injured at work, a record should be made. Legally, only the most serious work-related incidents have to be reported to the Workplace Health and Safety regulator, such as: 

  • A death
  • A serious injury or illness; or
  • A dangerous incident

Generally, anyone can report the incident, but the business owner or employer is legally required to do so, and there are penalties if they don’t.

For the purposes of workers’ compensation insurance, however, injuries must be reported to WorkCover Queensland within eight days of the incident, regardless of whether the worker makes a claim. Other work-related accidents should still be reported using your employer's procedures.

How to report unsafe workplaces

If your site is unsafe, you should first report any issues to your manager or site supervisor. They have a duty of care to ensure the issue is resolved and any hazards are removed if they're deemed to be causing a danger. There may be instances where a supervisor asks you to not report an incident or injury. This is usually against company policy, so speak to a more senior manager or your site delegate.

Smith’s Lawyers’ hot tips for reporting hazards:

  1. Report issues as soon as you become aware of them;
  2. If reporting them verbally, follow up with a written report. Any form of written evidence is good enough, whether an email, company form or letter;
  3. If the unsafe environment has caused a specific incident, ask to complete an incident report to record the details in writing. If your supervisor says not to report it, take it to higher management; and
  4. Keep your own log of any issues and the response received

If you feel management don’t respond sufficiently there are other avenues available, including raising a workplace health and safety concern via WorkSafe Queensland.

What can you do if you suffered an injury from such a hazard?

If you suffered an injury at work, you should seek medical advice immediately. You should then follow all steps listed above, and required by your company. We also recommend seeking legal advice as you may be entitled to compensation, including a lump sum payout through your superannuation.

Following the correct procedures is one of the most important steps when making an injury compensation claim. While we would much rather not see these incidents occurring in the first place, it’s important to us that you know what your rights are.

Feel confident in keeping workplaces safe? Take our workplace health and safety quiz here to see how much you remembered.

Peta Miller

A finalist for the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland's (WLAQ) Emergent Woman Lawyer of the Year in 2017 and Solicitor for the past seven years, Peta has worked exclusively in compensation law for 6 of those years.

Peta’s personal experience with the law means she’s walked in the shoes of her clients. She understands how empowering and important it is to pursue the recognition and acknowledgment that clients deserve in life-altering circumstances.

Her goal in practicing law is to find ways to help people who find themselves in these situations.

When she’s not working on her client's claims, Peta enjoys baking, watching sport and is currently writing a novel.

To find out more about Peta’s areas of expertise, please contact us.