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As an employer, you may face circumstances where your worker is seriously injured or experiences a dangerous situation at work. Under the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws, you must notify your local WHS regulator of any ‘notifiable incidents’ arising from your business’s conduct. This article will explain the meaning of notifiable incidents and your duty as an employer.

Notifiable Incidents

The model WHS laws define a notifiable incident as:

  1. the death of a person;
  2. a serious injury or illness of a person; or
  3. a dangerous incident.

Serious Injury or Illness

An injury or illness is serious if it requires your worker to have:

  • urgent treatment for severe injuries or as an in-patient in a hospital; or
  • treatment provided by a registered medical practitioner (e.g. a doctor) within 48 hours of exposure to a substance.

Safe Work Australia also provides examples of injuries or illnesses included and excluded from being a notifiable incident.

An Example

Type of treatmentNotifiable incidentNot a notifiable incident
Immediate treatment as an in-patient in a hospitalAdmission into a hospital as an in-patient for any duration, even if the stay is not overnight or longer.Out-patient treatment provided by a hospital’s emergency section (i.e. not requiring admission as an in-patient).
Admission for corrective surgery which does not immediately follow the injury (e.g. fixing a fractured nose).
Immediate treatment for a serious head injuryFractured skull, loss of consciousness, blood clot or bleeding in the brain, damage to the skull to the extent that it is likely to affect organ/face function. 
Head injuries resulting in temporary or permanent amnesia. 
A bump to the head resulting in a minor contusion or headache.
Immediate treatment for a serious eye injuryAn injury that results in or is likely to result in the loss of the eye or total or partial loss of vision. 
An injury that involves an object penetrating the eye (for example, metal fragment, wood chip). 
Exposure of the eye to a substance which poses a risk of serious eye damage.
Eye exposure to a substance that merely causes irritation.
Immediate treatment for a serious burnA burn requiring intensive care or critical care which could require a compression garment or a skin graft.A burn that merely requires washing the wound and applying a dressing.
Immediate treatment for the separation of skin from an underlying tissue (such as degloving or scalping)Separation of skin from an underlying tissue such that tendon, bone or muscles are exposed (degloving or scalping).Minor lacerations.
Immediate treatment for a spinal injuryInjury to the cervical, thoracic, lumbar or sacral vertebrae including the discs and spinal cord.Acute back strain.
Immediate treatment for the loss of a bodily functionLoss of consciousness, loss of movement of a limb or loss of the sense of smell, taste, sight or hearing, or loss of function of an internal organ.Mere fainting.
A sprain or strain.

Reference: Safe Work Australia Incident Notification Information Sheet (November 2015)

Dangerous Incident

An incident is dangerous if it exposes your worker to a serious risk to their health or safety and arises from 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;
  • the collapse, overturning, failure or malfunction of, or damage to, any plant that is required to be authorised for use (e.g. a crane);
  • the collapse or partial collapse of a structure;
  • the collapse or failure of an excavation or of any shoring supporting an excavation;
  • the inrush of water, mud or gas in workings, in an underground excavation or tunnel; or
  • the interruption of the main system of ventilation in an underground excavation or tunnel.

Duty to Notify of Notifiable Incidents

After becoming aware of a notifiable incident, immediately notify your local WHS regulator. You must provide notice by the fastest possible means (e.g. by telephone or email). Below are the local regulators for each state:

  • New South Wales = SafeWork NSW
  • Victoria = WorkSafe Victoria
  • Queensland = Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
  • South Australia = SafeWork SA
  • Western Australia = WorkSafe WA
  • Australian Capital Territory = WorkSafe ACT
  • Tasmania = WorkSafe Tasmania
  • Northern Territory = NT WorkSafe
  • Commonwealth = Comcare

Additionally, the regulator will request information from you, such as the incident’s date, time, location and details.

You must also keep records of notifiable incidents for at least 5 years from the date of notification.

Notably, penalties apply for failing to notify the regulator of a notifiable incident. Penalties also apply for failing to comply with your record-keeping requirements.

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Key Takeaways

The model WHS laws require you to notify your local WHS regulator of incidents that arise from the conduct of your business and are dangerous or involve the death or serious injury or illness of your worker. You must also keep records of notifiable incidents for at least 5 years. Otherwise, you may face penalties if you fail to notify or keep records of notifiable incidents.

If you have any questions about notifiable incidents, our experienced employment lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents for a low monthly fee. So call us today on 1300 544 755 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a notifiable incident?

The model WHS laws define a notifiable incident as the death of a person, a serious injury or illness of a person or a dangerous incident.

Who has the duty to notify of notifiable incidents?

A person conducting a business or undertaking has the duty to notify of notifiable incidents.


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