September 25, 2017
How to Respond
There is common agreement amongst many Industry Regulators, Insurers, Lawyers, Employers, Trade Unions and Emergency Services, which maintains that the first few hours following a work accident are the most critical.
Once a workplace accident occurs, the overwhelming priority is to ensure that all fellow workers remain safe. The second task is to make the site safe, which may involve shutting down all or part of the total workplace if necessary.
Following a serious incident it is prudent to advise Workplace Health & Safety Queensland (WHSQ) as soon as possible so that they can conduct an investigation into the matter. The business principal or the person who is conducting the business should then cordon off or otherwise prevent people from entering the site, where practical, until the full consent of WHSQ has been obtained. It’s also worthwhile noting that the ‘workplace site’ may include any plant, substance, structure or any other property associated with the incident. Criminal penalties may result if any unauthorised persons interfere with the site.
It’s also wise to contact the company lawyers as soon as possible to discuss the establishment of legal privilege. Legal privilege means that any documents created for the purpose of obtaining legal advice or for the purpose of court proceedings can’t be used in court proceedings unless they are voluntarily provided.
Should the accident result in a fatality, the deceased’s next of kin should be contacted – a matter best handled by the police. Arranging counseling for employees, especially for those who may have witnessed or were involved in the incident is appropriate. A skilled person, either an HR Manager or equivalent, should be the contact person. There should also be a person appointed to establish a document and record management process to control the documents that will follow from the event for future use in insurance or legal discussions.
Your insurance broker and insurer should also be notified as soon as practical to allow these insurance partners to assist, if and when, the matter is brought before a Court or insurance related tribunal or enquiry.
Consideration should also be given to the method and operations of the workplace following the incident. This will allow the business owner to review their existing procedures and risk management strategies to ensure that they remain relevant and appropriate.
As you can see by this article there are many issues that need to be addressed following a workplace accident. Partnership collaboration between your insurance broker, lawyer, risk managers and other professionals will assist when these events occur.