Workplace Investigations – ‘Not One Size Fits All’ 

by Oct 27, 2023All Posts, WH&S

Workplace accidents and incidents happen!  Despite preventative measures they still occur, and following such, workplace investigations are initiated. 

The investigative procedure is an obligation for employers to take following a workplace accident or incident, inclusive of injury, bullying and sexual harassment. Its purpose is to assess and enhance existing practices and policies to minimise the chance of reoccurrence.  

There are differing ‘types’ of workplace investigations which influence how employers and workplaces are to respond to accidents. This article aims to educate you on ‘how’ these differ and to emphasise that it is not as simple as ‘one size fits all’. 

Need to Know – Notifiable Incidents 

According to Safe Work Australia, a notifiable incident applies to a worker, contractor, or member of the public (customer/consumer) within the workplace.  

It is imperative that you understand and know ‘what’ defines a notifiable incident: 

  • The death of an individual; 
  • A ‘serious’ injury or illness; or 
  • A dangerous ‘incident’ that has exposed individuals to a serious risk, otherwise known as ‘near misses’. For example, an imminent risk that stems from an uncontrolled leakage of substance. 

Specifically, you need to know that a ‘notifiable incident’ must be reported to your state, territory or Commonwealth WHS regulator and the incident site preserved until a regulator arrives (after making it safe and first aid responding).  

Should an accident happen at work that does not arise from a work-related task, then it is not notifiable. For example, a worker suffers a heart attack which is not work related, or an employee with epilepsy suffers a seizure at work.  

Types of Investigation 
Harassment 

These investigations deal with a broad range of workplace harassment issues, from sexual, discriminatory, verbal, physical, and cyber harassment. This is inclusive of situations of bullying and/or victimisation.  

Fraud 

Investigating any intentional employee deception or misrepresentation that has resulted in employee financial gain or other benefits such as, forgery, identity theft, embezzlement, or bribery.  

Compliance 

Compliance investigations are often conducted by external agencies to investigate and to review a business’s compliance within industry specific regulations and standards.  

Health and Safety 

The investigation of Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) practices or incidents, that must be conducted in accordance with the relative Safe Work Australia guidelines specific to industry and location.  

Discrimination 

Respond to any claims or allegations of discrimination in the workplace, in response to the protected attributes, such as race, age, gender, religion, origin and/or disability (list not exhaustive). 

One thing that all these investigative processes have in common is the fact that they all lead to further remedial actions, paperwork and follow up.  

In navigating this process, you should start by consulting with your HR specialist! The AHR specialists are available 24/7 on 1800 577 515 and will provide a complimentary consult to discuss your workplace concerns.  The worst thing an employer can do following a workplace accident or incident, is to miss a step or to initiate one incorrectly. Legislation dictates how workplace investigations should be handled and conducted, such as required notification periods, employee rights, time frames surrounding communication, and more. 

The AHR team can equip you with the tools, templates and checklists required to follow the workplace investigative process. We can do it with you, working together to develop an overarching framework that will allow us to give you timely and business specific advice to see you remain compliant within Workplace Health and Safety legislation. Or, we can do it for you, stepping in as your HR and WHS department, developing and implementing a strategy of third-party service, taking on the role of the impartial investigator, enabling you to focus upon your other business priorities.  

To read more about Workplace Investigations see our service page WHS Investigations – Assurance HR Management.

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