Introduction

This month we are looking at requirements for notifying serious and/or dangerous incidents
to WorkCover. We will cover:

What is a serious injury or illness
What is a dangerous incident
Who has to report
When to report
How to report

The focus of the WHS Legislation in relation to incident notification is that PCBUs are
required to notify WorkCover of incidents that are serious and/or dangerous in nature.

If a death, serious injury or dangerous incident occurs at your workplace, you may be legally
required to notify WorkCover NSW about what has happened.

A PCBU must notify WorkCover of a Notifiable incident immediately after becoming aware
that:

An incident has occurred
That is has arisen out of the conduct of the PCBU’s business or undertaking

Incident notification and inspections

Notification of an incident is a statutory obligation outlined in section 35 of the WHS Act.
Timely incident notification informs WorkCover about current and potential health and
safety issues and whether or not to conduct an inspection. Specific incidents types requiring
notification are outlined under sections 36 & 37 of the WHS Act.

Notification must be made by the fastest possible means, which in NSW would be by
phoning 13 10 50.

Note: For after-hours notification the 13 10 50 number will provide details for you to
be transferred to WorkCover’s after-hours emergency service.

The duty to notify sits with the PCBU and is not transferable; more than one PCBU may
concurrently have a duty to submit an incident notification to WorkCover regarding the same
safety incident. The PCBU may arrange for another entity or person to submit notifications
on their behalf. This could be:

The person with management or control of the workplace
The supervisor of the injured worker
Any other person with identified responsibility to notify

Any failure by that person or entity to submit a notification on behalf of the PCBU may result
in liability for a breach of section 38 of the WHS Act accruing to the PCBU which holds the
duty to notify.

Serious Injury or Illness

Section 36 of the WHS Act states that a serious injury or illness of a person is an injury or
illness requiring the person to have:

Immediate treatment as an inpatient in a hospital
Immediate treatment for:
o The amputation of any part of their body
o A serious head injury
o A serious eye injury
o A serious burn
o The separation of their skin from an underlying tissue (such as de-gloving or
scalping)
o A spinal injury
o The loss of a bodily function
o Serious lacerations
Medical treatment within 48 hours of exposure to a substance
The following prescribed illnesses
o Any infection to which the carrying out of work is a significant contributing
factor, and the infection can be reliably attributable to carrying out work:
That involves providing treatment or care of a person
That involves contact with human blood or body substances
That involves handling or contact with animals, animal hides, skins,
wool or hair, animal carcasses or animal waste products.

The following occupational zoonoses contracted in the course of work involving the handling
or contact with animals, animal hides, skins, wool or hair, animal carcasses or animal waste
products:

Q fever
Anthrax
Leptospirosis
Brucellosis
Hendra virus
Avian influenza
psittacosis

Dangerous Incident

Section 37 of the WHS Act sets out that a dangerous incident is an incident in relation to a
workplace that exposes a worker or any other person to a serious risk to a person’s health
and safety emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to:

An uncontrolled escape, spillage or leakage of a substance
An uncontrolled implosion, explosion or fire
An uncontrolled escape of gas or steam
An uncontrolled escape of a pressurised substance
Electric shock
The fall or release from a height of any plant, substance or thing – this includes falls
into open trenches or pits by people
The collapse, overturning, failure or malfunction of, or damage to, any plant that is
required to be authorised for use in accordance with the regulations
The collapse or partial collapse of a structure

The collapse or failure of an excavation or any shoring supporting an excavation
The inrush of water, mud or gas in workings, in an underground excavation or tunnel
The interruption of the main system of ventilation in an underground excavation or
tunnel.

Preserving the site

The person with management or control of a workplace at which a Notifiable incident has
occurred must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the site where the incident
occurred is NOT disturbed (unless that disturbance is for a ‘prescribed reason’- see below),
until a WorkCover inspector arrives at the site, or directs otherwise (whichever is earlier).
The site includes any plant, substance, structure or thing associated with the Notifiable
incident. This duty is designed to preserve any evidence that may assist an inspector to
determine the cause of the incident.

A ‘prescribed reason’ can include one of the following circumstances to take action for an
incident site to be disturbed:

To assist an injured person
To remove a deceased person
To make the site safe or to minimise the risk of a further Notifiable incident
To facilitate a police investigation
A WorkCover inspector has given permission – a direction that a site may be
disturbed may be given in person or by telephone

Record Keeping

Section 38 of the WHS Act requires a PCBU to keep a record of each Notifiable incident
for at least five (5) years from the date WorkCover was notified. Penalties of up to $25,000
apply for failing to do so.

Further Information

WorkCover NSW has produced a ‘Guide to Work Health and Safety Incident Notification’
which provides practical guidance on how to decide whether you need to notify WorkCover
of an injury, illness or dangerous incident under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

If a serious injury or illness or a significant incident has occurred at your workplace and
you are unsure if it requires reporting, we recommend you contact WorkCover as soon as
practicable for clarification on 13 10 50.

References:

WHS Act 2011 – Sections 14, 16, 35, 36, 37, 38, & 39

WHS Regulation 2011 – Clause 699 (part 11.3)

WorkCover Publication – (Catalogue No. WC03621) – Guide to Work Health and Safety
Incident Notification

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